Over the past four years I have been very fortunate in having been invited to speak at several conventions in North America, my latest venture being to Canada and the Canadian Association of Aquarium Clubs (CAOAC) convention held in London Ontario on 19th - 22nd May.
The association was formed in 1963 and to day consists of twenty-two clubs. Each year clubs submit bids to host the annual convention, and this year's event was hosted by the London Aquarium Society and was held at the Franshawe College in London, Ontario.
The use of college facilities was a totally new venture, which proved to be a very successful one, with all the required facilities being readily available.
The talks took place in the college's lecture theatre, complete with overhead projection. This was the first time I had given a presentation on a four-metre screen.
The fifty class open show was divided into two rooms and attracted a total of 252 entries, which included classes for plants, photographs, marines, novelty, crafts and aquatic art.
The last three classes had some interesting entries, which were mainly contested by junior members.
The real plus side of the college arrangement was that guests and visitors actually stayed on campus in student accommodation complete with maid service.
On Saturday and Sunday and to keep everyone well nourished during the event, the students union provided a breakfast service and prepared and served the evening banquets. The food was good and the service was excellent.
The main activities started on Friday evening with what I would call a comical part cryptic quiz hosted by livebearer and cichlid expert Mike Schadle.
Expert lecturesSaturday morning saw the start of the more serious talks; Robert De Marco from Montral, Quebec gave the first talk, which was an excellent presentation on the keeping and breeding of several varieties of anemone fishes.
The second speaker talking on aquarium plants was Karen Randall from Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
Then it was the turn of yours truly, with my talk on selecting and breeding Corydoradinae Catfishes. Last but not least was Juan Miguel Artigas Azas from San Luis Potosi, Mexico whose talk was centred on Central American Cichlids. Saturday's official activities were concluded with the first of the banquets, which for many lasted well into the early hours of the morning.
JudgingSunday started with an early breakfast and then into the show rooms to judge some fish. The classes I had been allocated were Corydoras, suckermouths (Loricariidae catfish) and a mixed class that was affectionately called "Scavengers" which included loaches and sharks.
Now there's a good mix of fish. The judging methods are not as precise as I am used to, which meant that I was all done and dusted in a little over an hour.
The main event of the day and the thing that provides a good proportion of the events funding is the grand auction and I do mean grand!
The auctionIt is a great source of entertainment for me to watch some of these auctions, especially when expert auctioneers like Mike Schadle and his good wife Robyn get into full flight.
Although things started in an orderly fashion with Ray "Kingfish" Lucas auctioning all the goods from his trade displays, with all the proceeds going to club funds.
After Ray had completed his stint Mike and Robyn took control and it was more like listening to a well-rehearsed songs than auctioneers calling for bids.
Auctions at these events are quite long affaires and usually last for six or seven hours. The way lots are presented is different, with all items being numbered and placed on display for all to see.
About three quarters through the auction a break was call to draw the raffle. Unlike at most events here in the UK this involved only one prize, which was well worth buying one or several $2.00 tickets for, it came in the form of a fully kitted 48" bow fronted tank valued at around $1500 supplied by All Glass Aquariums and Kingfish services.
The finale to the convention was the Sunday evening banquet where the CAOAC president Tony Bernard, gave an address and made several announcements and presentations, then it was time for the show awards announced and presented by Show chairman Terry Little and host club president Ron Bishop.
After all the official activities everyone dispersed to conclude a final round of socialising, which again continued into the small hours. Monday morning was clean up time for the host club and after a final round of goodbyes I was on my way.