Event Report from IPMS Florida 2012, Part 1

Event Report from IPMS Florida 2012, Part 1

Took a trip to "IPMS Florida"!!
I'll be reporting on that enthusiasm and excitement here on my old man's blog!

– Contents –
  • * IPMS Florida 2012 event report
  • * A contest encompassing thousands of models took place at the splendid event site!!

The Contemporary Resort where the IPMS Florida event was held.
There's a monorail stop inside the actual building itself!
You can go from the resort straight to Disney World!!

Who will win the Zoukei-mura "Most Valuable Geezer" trophies?!
From here, we will journey over 10,000 km to IPMS Florida.
A six-member team setting off into the unknown.  What kind of incidents will occur along the way?
Take note of our faces, still relaxed and comfortable at this point!!

Good afternoon to all of our SWS fans!
The hot days are continuing over here, but how are things where you are?

Took a trip to IPMS Florida!

Over the next few entries, I'll be reporting on that excitement and enthusiasm here in my old man's blog.

I want to include you as fully as I can, so please, relax for a moment and accompany me on this hot summer's day.

IPMS stands for "International Plastic Modeler's Society," and is a global hobby organization that is run by volunteer plastic model fans.

Subsequently, the venue for IPMS USA's annual event for 2012 was set in Orlando, Florida.

At the event, Zoukei-mura had a booth nearly three times as large as the one we had at the previous Omaha event!!  It was a vendor's booth run by our full six-member team.

Now, how do you think things went?!

Allow me to begin my old man's IPMS Florida event report.

Good morning~!  The SWS Development Team members gathered at Itami Airport in Kansai!
Our happy faces, not yet aware of our delayed flight, somehow look so pitiful!  Right after this picture was taken, we were cruelly informed that our flight would be delayed four hours.

When on layover at Narita Airport, our appetites may be the only vigorous thing left!
Hey, hey!  What's with those V-signs!  Somehow you've even lured an old geezer like me into participating!  Yes.  This is still Japan.  Japanese is still understood.

Thank goodness, we finally arrived at O'Hare Airport in Chicago.
But because of our delay, we were unable to catch our originally scheduled flight.  Once we got through customs, we had to sit and wait for a long, long while on the airport benches.

Look, look, look!  The SWS team has finally arrived in Florida!!
The resort ambience is typical of Orlando.  As you can see, that atmosphere is present even in the airport.  To our jet-lagged selves, the strong Florida sunshine was extremely bright~~!

Good timing!  The rental car picked up by our advance scout arrives.  With this, we were finally able to go to the hotel.  Moreover, this car, an American Toyota Sienna, was able to run steadily even when loaded down with six people and eight pieces of luggage.

We often procure display tools and supplies locally, even long pipes like these.
After all, this is America.  There are home improvement stores everywhere that carry all kinds of things, it's so convenient!  However, I am not allowed to go, because I always see too many things I want.

All ri~ight!  Our first dinner in America will be steak!  It's so nice to be young~!  Against my better judgment, I got caught up in their energy, and came along with them.  I really shouldn't have – steak on a jet-lagged stomach…

See, forget the steak – I managed to get full on just veggies!
No room to be even talking about meat.  But the young guys with me gobbled everything up with their usual appetite.  How on earth do they do it?!

Just look at this disaster area!!  They even ordered beer, and just ate and ate!
As for me, I was stuck in a predicament, having still not finished my veggies.
The work begins tomorrow!

On August 6, we departed Japan from Itami Airport in Kansai!

This time, including myself, the Development Team members numbered six in total.
 Out of those six, three speak English.  Regardless of who they're speaking to or what they're talking about, any of the three are skilled enough to speak freely and fluently.

And unfortunately, the other three, including myself, are completely unable to speak English!
 The only weapons in my arsenal are a smile, a handshake, and a heartfelt hug! (sweating nervously all the while)

We're pretty much like a young gang of ruffians with more ability in our fists than our brains.

"Bah!  We don't need words!  We have gestures!"  For the three of us, the only thing we can rely on is our bravado, which can only be truly understood in Japan.

Now~ what in the world awaited us on this trip?!

From Itami Airport to Orlando, with layovers at Narita Airport and Chicago O'Hare, we had an approximate total of 13 hours in the air!

What lay before the six handsome youths, whose faces reflected both tension and anticipation……!!

Oh~!  What's this!
The first hurdle appeared before us almost right away~!!

* "This flight will be delayed for approximately four hours due to technical difficulties."

Hey, JAL employee, don't say such an important thing so nonchalantly!  A 4-hour delay?!

Then what's going to happen with our connecting flight in Chicago~~~?  Eh?  It will all work out, you say?

Is that really true~~?!

At any rate, first we have to get to Narita, no matter what.  There are no direct flights from Itami Airport to Chicago.
(Why aren't there any, why?!  Is it because Kansai is out in the boonies?!)

With a vague anxiety in our hearts, we get on the plane, because it's not like we can turn back now.

W-will everything really be okay, JAL?!

All this when another staff member already departed for Orlando on an ANA flight on this same day, and that flight was on time without any problems!!

And thus the six of us wasted precious time pointlessly waiting amidst the rather poor amenities of Narita Airport.

For some reason, even at times like this, even in circumstances such as these, these guys can always be relied upon to have hearty appetites.  "Hmm, they're not discouraged at all!  But at times like this, that just makes them all the more dependable!!"

Since we wouldn't be able to eat Japanese food for a while, as a final farewell, everyone unanimously ordered "tonkatsu."

Also, the pun with "katsu (to win)" also made for a good omen.  "Excuse me~!  We'd like to order~!"

Ah, so full!!
 After we pulled ourselves together, the full six-member Zoukei-mura team safely made our flight to O'Hare Airport in Chicago.
 From there, we finally arrived at our longed-for destination, Orlando International Airport.

"Oh~!  Look!  The Orlando Airport gets full marks for the resort atmosphere!"

After all, the airport was filled with men and women strolling around in beach sandals and shorts!  The colors and patterns of their outer garments exuded a tropical atmosphere.

Whereas we looked dead serious!  We of the Zoukei-mura Japanese Army completely stood out in attire!  We may as well have been from another planet.

And the temperature was quite hot!  But without much humidity!

Our other staff member, who had arrived before us, had already picked up the rental car and was standing by waiting!  "Hm~m, this is a good sign!"

With its blinker winking on and off, the rental car that came for us was … what!  Why, this is a "Toyota Sienna," just like the one that Volks USA used to own.
 Not only is it large, but the Sienna has some power.
More than anything, it was an American Toyota.  It felt familiar while at the same time not, like a child returning to their home country after a long while.

After cramming six humans and their luggage into the spacious interior, we were off to the hotel~!

After that, we went out to a local home improvement center in order to purchase materials for setting up our booth.
 We obtained poles, metal fixtures, fabric, and tools for setting up our displays – participating in overseas events is such a continuously rigorous undertaking that we literally didn't have time to rest.
 Ah~~ so busy, so busy.

As the Commander-in-Chief, I maintain a calm presence…… (Truthfully, I can't do anything.)

Although our stomachs were feeling strange due to the reversal of our days and nights, we also ate our first dinner since arriving.  I had received a request from my Zoukei-mura kids that they wanted to eat something with meat.
 All right~!  In that case, let's go out to a type of restaurant non-existent in Japan, the "meat buffet," and eat dinners made completely of meat!
(To tell the truth, we just went there because it was right in front of the hotel, and easy to get to.)

For some reason, at that restaurant, you order what you want to eat from photos at the host desk, prior to being seated.  After that, salads and desserts are buffet-style – it was a type of restaurant I've never seen before in Japan.

As for me, I was full from the salad before my beloved steak even came!

Around the time when the sizzling steaks arrived, my upper eyelids had begun to meet my lower eyelids – that's right, sleepiness had attacked, to the point where I couldn't keep my eyes open.

By the way, how do you think everyone else was!
 Yes, the young men of Zoukei-mura were munching and chewing away.

They ate and they ate – it's truly amazing to be young~~!

Oh, man, I'm going to get fat after eating like this!
 Alas, I was the only one who sighed such a comment.

The next morning, we went straight to the venue!
Taking the freeways through the green forests was a very comfortable drive.
Oh~!!  It's the gate to the Magic Kingdom!  The tension finally began to ratchet up.  My heart was beating very fast.

The IPMS event site was in Orlando, Florida.
Moreover, it was at Disney World!

The next morning, it was finally the day before the event.

The day when we could see the event site for the first time, as well as take care of all the necessary setup prior to the event opening.
 Forget jet lag – the determination of the Zoukei-mura team members who met that early morning was enough to bring down heaven!

"Let's go~~!!"  And thus we set off with light hearts, our Sienna hitting the freeway at high speed.

It was somehow nostalgic, as the American landscape that we had already gotten used to seeing slipped by us through the windows.

Oh, yes!  This year, IPMS Florida was held in an enormous event hall at Disney's Contemporary Resort and Convention Center, which itself is within the vast expanse of Disney World.

And goodness, that expanse is truly vast, indeed!
 We went on and on, driving through an endless green forest.

Following the signs for Disney World off the freeway, our Toyota Sienna ran along at considerable speed, but we couldn't even see the building for the convention center, much less the resort.

While driving through the forest, we passed through a number of gates before finally reaching the parking lot for the resort.

Before we entered the venue, we had a reunion with Earl, a familiar face!
It's been over a year since IPMS Omaha!  IPMS Florida will take place over the next four days.  We are much obliged to Earl.  It was on his invitation that we traveled all the way to Orlando.

Look at this enormous contest room!  It will truly be indescribable when all this space is filled and covered in models!
You really do need more than one day to take it all in.  Whew~!

We confirmed that the boxes shipped from Japan two months ago arrived safely.  Now!  This is where the work for the Development Team members begins.  Merchandise, finished display models, accessories, and even Concept Notes.  Will customers come visit the booth~?!

Oho~o!  Even while we were still setting up, we began to receive early reservation requests.
The mountain of merchandise that we had audaciously prepared was soon covered, one by one, in reservation slips.  Our worries were replaced by feelings of gratitude.

The Zoukei-mura booth was finished at last.  Tomorrow will finally be the first day of the event.  Having come all the way from Japan to participate, I wonder what kind of response we will receive from the customers?  My thoughts tumble rapidly in a mix of impatience and anxiety.

Hmm~m.  Hmmm~m.  HMMMM~~M.

Now!!  The morning of the first day of IPMS Florida is here~~!
It's been a year since IPMS Omaha!  At last, we've finally reached this point.  Take note of everyone's high spirits, as if we are somehow already victorious!

All of a sudden, an encounter with Earl!

That's right.  Earl Petrikin, who we met a year ago at last year's IPMS convention in Omaha, was already in the parking lot in front of the event hall, giving directions to the vendors!

At the sight of that familiar face, all of the Zoukei-mura team members gave a great shout.

"Hi, Earl!  How are you!"

All at once, it was a scene distinctively IPMS, which is an organization run entirely by volunteers, that was spreading out before our eyes.

Earl also greeted us with a wide smile.
 Shaking his hand felt like reuniting with an old friend.

The whole organization is so refreshing.
 A smiling Earl hailed us six Japanese men with a dancing gaze and words.  "Welcome to Florida!"

After hurried greetings, the team members carried the box containing the completed display model of the SWS "Uhu" into the event hall.
 We were greeted by the cold whoosh of an air-conditioned breeze.

"Uwaa~ it's so huge~~!!"  "Oh~ it's beautiful~~!"

As always, we were bowled over by IPMS USA's event site.  So spacious!  So large!

And so extravagant!

The vastness of the vendor area goes without saying, but what on earth is this huge contest area!!
 The display tables covered the entire floor of an enormous event hall, awaiting the arrival of the contest entries.
"Will all these tables really be completely filled with models?"  The size was such that we were honestly concerned.

As for us, the boxes for the Zoukei-mura booth that we had shipped from Japan two months prior were waiting for us, having arrived without any problems.
 Upon sight of the mountain of boxes, all of our faces openly displayed how our worries were finally relieved.

As can be expected of America, we could rely on everything to be done as it should be.
(At a previous event in France, there was a rather puzzling incident in which a misunderstanding with a venue employee resulted in all of our boxes being shipped back to Japan.)

Our first task was to open and unpack the pile of boxes.

At times like these, the way the Zoukei-mura team members work is a sight to see!
 Their efficiency is so brilliant that I only wish that I could show you all.  Watching them work so quickly and nimbly, it's hard to believe that they're actually the designers and engineers behind the SWS.
 In addition, surely no one ever imagined that I myself could ever come to such a place as Orlando as the president of Zoukei-mura, Inc.

Amidst all this, more and more boxes were unpacked by the easy efficiency of my staff members.

At this event, it was critical that the mistake that we made at last year's IPMS Telford event in the UK not happen again.
 The gaffe of all of our merchandise selling out on the first day of event must not be repeated.  We learned our lesson, and brought around three times the amount of merchandise as we had to Telford.

Which was why we ended up having so many boxes!
 The Shinden, the Ta 152, the Skyraider, the Mustang, the accessory parts and Concept Notes for each, and more all completely covered our tables.

Surely we won't be able to sell all of this?!  It was enough merchandise to cause such worries.

And then………?!?

"Eh?!  You want to make…a reservation?"

Oho!!  Even here in Orlando, we began to receive early reservation requests.
 Even though we were still setting up, with the event not opening until tomorrow…….
 I didn't know if this was a good omen, or whether these customers were just hasty!

Even Fred from the neighboring booth made a reservation with a smile.  "Reserve a Shinden for me!"

 Goodness, by the time we finished setting up around 7 p.m. that evening, we were already overflowing in reservation slips.
 Perhaps it means that it was worth it to embark on this journey of over 10,000 km.

Whether or not it means that the reputation of the SWS has finally grown enough to be acknowledged as the real thing, that night before the event opened, our worries suddenly made a complete U-turn, as we began to wonder if we hadn't brought enough merchandise to this event, either.

Our preparations were complete.  All we could do was wait for the event to open at 9:30 a.m. the following morning.

With our hearts keyed up, we left the now-quiet event hall behind.

(The truth is, in spite of being in the middle of setting up, we continued to receive visitors one after the other at the Zoukei-mura booth, and lost quite a bit of time to those interactions, which couldn't really be helped.  It was an endless series of long conversations.
 In addition, the IPMS staff grew quite impatient with us, telling us several times that it was past closing time.
 We became aware that there continued to be a crowd only around our booth, and finally, they turned out the lights in the event hall, such that people finally began to leave.  Everyone truly loves models and airplanes, don't they?
 Sincerest apologies to all of the IPMS staff!!)

Finally, tomorrow would be first day of the event!

And tonight, we would continue to nourish our high spirits, with a pre-event celebratory Chinese dinner awaiting us!!
 Or so we continued to think until we walked in the door of the restaurant, but alas, high hopes do not always bear out!!

The restaurant turned out to be a magnificent failure.

Hm~m.  With the rather troubling tastes lingering, we could only hope that it wasn't an omen for how the next day would go~~
 Everyone, I sincerely urge you to please take care with Chinese food in a foreign city.

Well, then, please look forward to my next entry in a few days!!


Hideyuki Shigeta
Representative of ZOUKEI-MURA


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