I now return to the scheduled DC Pen Show Programming.
As I mentioned in my experience post, I’m also reviewing the 2021 DC Pen Show. I’m surprised I haven’t reviewed it before. For those unaware, Bob Johnson passed away, and his sister has taken over the show organization. She appears to be more willing to bring in additional help.
Of note, I won’t be as “harsh” as I general would be. With the combo platter of minimal planning time due to COVID uncertainties, a new person running it, and the limitations due to COVID, the show deserves some leeway. Because of that, I’ll likely review it again, next year (or whenever COVID restrictions have been completely lifted).
You all know how much I’ve been missing pen shows. I can’t say how great it was to go to the Washington DC Fountain Pen Supershow (AKA DC Pen Show). I intend to write a few posts related to the DC Pen Show, this one covers my general experience at the show. Still to come are my review of the show, and some reviews of what I bought. It was so lovely to see pen friends and chat with everyone throughout the show.
Friday – Show
This was the first time I’ve attended the DC Pen Show on a Friday, so I can’t say how different it was to normal, non-COVID years. However, in comparison to what I’m used to from the DC Pen Show, this year felt rather empty. There were additional vendors arriving throughout the day, though.
I was at the show from about 9:30am to about 1:15pm; leaving early after accomplishing my main missions. I needed to pick up Jim to go back for the unofficial Pen Show After Dark hangout, and I didn’t want to be stuck in traffic. And anyway, there were still two more days.
My first stop upon arrival was the registration table. I’d heard a rumor amongst the DC Pen Crew that a Weekend Trader Pass allowed you to bring a spouse. Turned out it was true!! So I picked up my badge and a badge for Jim (we were very thankful for that later). Then, because it was still so early (only about 9:38), I sat in the lobby for a bit. But by 9:52, I couldn’t contain my excitement anymore and snuck into the smaller room.
Jim brought up going to the Triangle Pen Show (TPS) a couple weeks ago but we dithered for a while, only deciding to go on the Thursday before. The drive wasn’t too bad, we were lucky to not hit traffic on the way down — we hit all the traffic on the way back up, though.
We made it to the show around 11:30 am. Finding out masks weren’t required surprised me. Being fully vaccinated, we decided to try going maskless and see how we felt. I’m not going to lie, it felt a bit naughty. I felt almost naked. But it was nice to breath freely. And since the room wasn’t packed, I was OK without a mask and enjoyed the taste of pre-COVID life.
The best part for me was just being at a pen show again. Getting to see Carey from Kenro, Damien of All in the Nib, Bert of Bertram’s Inkwell — although we see him often — and some pen friends was great. I’ve missed the pen camaraderie. It’s such a social battery recharge to see people, talk pens, and be able to see/handle things in person before buying them.
As I reviewed some old blog posts the other day, it hit me that: 1) I never wrote a post about the 2020 Baltimore Pen Show and 2) that it’s been over a year since my last pen show, and I really miss them!
I’m well aware that I’m incredibly privileged to live near two pen shows, BWIPS and DC. While BWIPS will always be my favorite, both are tons of fun, dangerous for the budget, and an opportunity to see pen peeps.
And that camaraderie, that sense of community, is part of what I miss so much. I can buy pens — for the most part — at any time, but I can’t see people. Video calls, while nice, are not the same. Especially in an analog hobby, so much gets lost in a digital “meeting.”
As I mentioned in my last post, this was my first time as pen show volunteer staff. It’s an experience I look forward to repeating many times in the future.
When Corinne, the show organizer, put out a call to the DC Pen Crew for volunteers, I eagerly signed up. My reasoning, beyond wanting to help out, was that if I was volunteering, I wouldn’t be spending money.
That theory worked out well. When I received the schedule, I was happy to see myself listed for Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. That shift schedule worked so well that I’m hoping for the same next year.
Alright, my third pen show of the year. Allow me to start of by saying that the Baltimore Washington International Pen Show (BWIPS) is my favorite pen show. I’ll do my best to describe and rate it (since I haven’t done so previously) in an unbiased manner, but I don’t know if I’ll be wholly successful.
To start, this was a show with several firsts for me. It was the first time I’d attended a full pen show, the first time I’d stayed at the show hotel, the first time I’d attended a pen show workshop, and the first time I’d volunteered as part of the show staff.
I’ll cover my volunteering experience in another post. For now, suffice to say it was great. I’m eager to volunteer again next year.
The Los Angeles Pen Show was the fourth show location I’ve attended (DC, Baltimore, Philly, and now LA). There were a decent number of tables, but the layout was appalling.
We arrived around 10:30, assuming that would allow us to avoid the opening crush of people we’d heard a lot about.
Unfortunately, we arrived to find a line that wound down the corridor, out the door, and about half way down the building. Surprisingly, the line moved fairly quickly, but getting into the show was less than half the battle.
An unconsidered side-effect of arriving after the show had started was a lack of street parking. There wasn’t much to start with, but it was all taken by the time we arrived. Parking at the hotel ended up costing us around $20 for the little time we were there. I don’t want to know what people who stayed the whole day paid.
As I sat down to write my post about the LA Pen Show, I realized I’d never written a post about the Philly show. Therefore, even though it’s over a month late, allow me to share with you my experiences at the Philly show.
We drove up from the DC area with a friend of ours, and, thankfully, there was no real traffic. Upon arriving, I realized how fortunate I am to have the DC and Baltimore shows.
My immediate thought was that the show is overpriced for its size. We paid $13 online (it’s $15 at the door), a single-day price higher than DC, Baltimore, and LA. It’s also smaller than those other three shows.
I will say that the aisles were roomy, on par with Baltimore and far surpassing DC and LA. The selection was fairly evenly dispersed between vintage, new, expensive, and affordable. There was a decent selection of inks. And, for the overall size of the show, a decent number of nibmeisters.
We weren’t able to take time off from work to attend the show on Friday, but we went straight from dinner to the hotel. From the moment we arrived at the Marriott Fairview Place on Friday night, it couldn’t have been more different than last year. By sheer coincidence, we arrived as a group of our pen friends were heading out to dinner. We exchanged “hello”s and “see you later”s with everyone, and hugs with a few people. Ralph, the contagious ink boy, inked Jim with a hug, which was rather funny.
We relaxed at the bar for a while, catching up with our friend TeAntae and her mother, Louise. Once people started returning from dinner, we spent the evening at the hotel bar, chatting, testing paper and nibs, and generally having a great time.
Alright, this is it. The big one. The one we’ve all be waiting for…whoops, nope, this isn’t Harry Potter. This is my last BWIPS 2018 post. I hope you’ve enjoyed reminiscing with me. If you haven’t yet, go read parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 before continuing.
When I left you yesterday, we were all heading back to the hotel for the “official” pen show after dark fun. Somehow, between leaving Frank & Nic’s as one big group, and arriving at the hotel (a 5-minute walk if you’re going slow) we separated into multiple smaller clusters of 3-8 people.
Jim made a beeline for the hallway between the show rooms as soon as it became apparent that that was where the “event” was being held. Jim wanted a good spot, and I tagged along with him.
Soon Cary Yeager and a gentleman whose name I don’t know came down the hall and started setting up the area. I helped bring out and set up the chairs so my conscience would be clear when I didn’t stay to clean up.
Slowly, people filtered down from the bar and lobby, filling the little hallway area to overflowing.
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