It’s been a few days now, the crates have been unpacked, the bottles are back in their homes and the dust has settled, so thought it was a good time to give my afterthoughts of the FOHBC 50th National Convention that was hosted in Augusta, Ga this past week. First of all, I would like to thank the entire Augusta committee for all the hard work and effort into the making of this convention. Coming up from an 8 hour drive from central Florida, my wife and I really enjoyed seeing both the backroads of Georgia and also the charming little downtown of Augusta. The van was loaded with both my Vintage Soda Brandology display and also a great number of crates of soda bottles and display items. The Road to Augusta has been almost a year in the making, so the excitement grew as we finally made it up to Augusta. Please see my summary below on the eventful days.
Thursday morning we started off with the display setup and meeting the great kindness of Walter Smith. He was very accommodating with letting me pick my display location and a few of his workers even helped us with the unloading from the van, so that was much appreciated. After a busy hour of setting up, I was next greeted by a reported from the Augusta Chronicle and after a great conversation and a few photos, the next morning there I was in the Augusta Chronicle promoting the show. Very exciting.
Around noon, my wife and I were able to catch the shuttle and rode over to the Newman Open house. We were amazed both by Mike's massive collection and its presentation throughout his house and also by the great southern hospitality from both Mike and Julie with the huge selection of food and drinks. Great pork sandwiches and shrimp cocktail. Thanks again Mike and Julie for doing this!
In the evening by wife and I got lucky with our afternoon walk and made it over to the Augusta History Museum just before it started to rain. We got to meet and have a great discussion with Bill Baab and learned alot about the museum and history of Augusta. It was great to see Bill's amazing collection on display in the museum. He is a true Augusta Historian for both collecting and most importantly writing about the history of Augusta.
As we made it back to the hotel after dinner at another Augusta landmark Luigi's we made our way down to the Best Bottle Competition with a few entries. I heard a lot of remarks and watched videos of previous conventions and was excited to experience the bottle competition for my first time. Unfortunately this event did not live up to my expectations and I have noted some future improvements that I can see listed in the below section.
Friday we started off with the membership breakfast and it was great to sit and meet other members and also hear the latest updates from Matt and the board. Next up were the seminars which again I was greatly looking forward too. For the first seminar, I attended Harvey Teals presentation on South Carolina Flasks an again, much like Bill Baab, Harvey is a true asset to South Carolina history. I really enjoyed listening to his great stories and knowledge of the cities that produced flasks.
For the second seminar, I attended Dennis Smith’s Kola Wars as I had already read a few of his books and was looking forward to his presentation. Dennis has a great wealth of knowledge of the soda history in the United States and he did not let us down. Great job Dennis. Last, I attended Mark Williams seminar on Bludwine and Budwine. Mark presented a great history of the Bludwine founder and companies. It was neat to hear his story of when he purchased his last Budwine and found it to be flat and turning it in for a Dr. Pepper.
Midday Friday started with the ribbon-cutting and the dash to put all my bottles out on my vendor tables. It was neat to have folks waiting to see what I was pulling out next. Got to meet a great number of folks and also hear their collecting interests and stories. Saturday morning provide a peaceful interval, so I was able to walk around and visit most of the vendor tables and also spend some time with presenting my display to others. The raffles and jug auctions were great and gave something to look forward to each hour during the events. I had the pleasure of meeting some fine young kids doing the scavenger hunt and taught them the different types of bottles. Sales were good for me and the attendance seemed to be pretty good, but remember this was my first convention, so others might have a different take on this note. At the end of the day, the winner was announced for the displays and the show ended with fast and efficient clean-up. We ended the evening with a great dinner at the Boll Weevil restaurant right next to the Convention Center. Please see some of my suggested improvements below.
As noted earlier in this article, overall this was a great Convention and again many thanks to Augusta team with all the efforts they put in the making. Noted below are some of the items in which I think could be improved for the next convention.
Bottle Competition: I was really disappointed on this event and though it was very bias. Here is my reasoning. First of all, there was no criteria stated for the competition, so what were they judging on? Let’s put something down on paper, and have real judging. Suggestions being: Condition, Color, Rarity. Maybe a scale 1-5 for each.. Second, you actually had judges that were judging on categories in which they had bottles entered in (and won of course). Really? Also, I do not think the MC of event should have bottles entered in addition as it allowed the advantage for him to talk and present his bottles more than any others. In addition, I think he went way over the maximum number of bottles allow. If you want to have a legitimate competition, nobody judging or running the event should know the owner of the bottle being judged. It needs to be based on what they rate the bottle against the criteria to best of their knowledge and not who knows who and can talk up the best story.
Display Competition: After reviewing the many educational videos on the FOHBC website, there are some great videos of exhibitors presenting their display and the history and education behind it. This is a great way to share to the many other members that could not make it to the show in person. I always had the pleasure of viewing these in the past. I was very disappointed when I saw no effort of recording short demos for each display and each exhibitor explaining their display. Like myself, I know many others went through great effort, detail and cost to build and setup their display but to little reward. It also would of been nice maybe to do a introduction of each display and its owner during the event and maybe let them give a brief description to the audience to spur interest. I saw little to none attention to the displays during the show. Last but most important, only one person received awards of the nearly 15 entries, this too was another let down. For display voting, I would suggest a: 3rd, 2nd and Best of Show based off number of votes. (Have folks vote for their one favorite)This guarantees that three exhibitors will walk away with some appreciation for their efforts and not just one like this show.
Discounted vendor tables for display exhibitors (Suggestion $5 or $10 discount) for folks that are also hosting a display. Does not need to be much, but just some appreciation for also taking the time to assemble a display and transport it to the show. Again its about promoting and educating the hobby to others.
How do we involve the younger generations in the hobby? This is a great question that Matt has wrote about in the past and also brought up during the membership breakfast. First of all we have to look at the interests in our younger crowd to better understand. For sure we are in a digital age, so I think wherever we can bring technology into the hobby is a plus. Great example being the virtual museum effort. Maybe thinking of a display or competition for lets say people < 20 years of age.? that could be promoted thru the many social channels. Maybe a best bottle photograph or painting in the same age group? Maybe a competition on how to best managed (database or app) your collection? Just thinking outside of the bottle :)
In closing, Thanks again to the entire team that made the 50th FOHBC Convention possible and looking forward to many future events. Happy Collecting, Tom