I think I can say with a fair amount of certainty that most of you reading this article either enjoy going to pipe shows or if you've never been, would like to go to one. This past March I attended my fourth NY Pipe Show which is held in Newark NJ. The March show is the first of four New York shows each year and although I haven't attended any of the other yearly shows I'm told that the March show is the best of the bunch. This year's show however, was noticeably different from other years. For starters it was the first March show since the New Jersey smoking ban had gone into effect and smoking was no longer allowed during the show. This had an obvious effect on attendance and participation and to a point I can understand why. Personally, I was disappointed and on the way home was discussing with the others in the car my thoughts for writing my report about the show for this month's newsletter. I usually try to be as positive as I can when writing about the adventures of the Sherlock Holmes Pipe Club but I was struggling with this one a little. I put it on the back burner and thought more about it when my mind wasn't cluttered with other things. About a week later, during my forty five minute drive home from work it all seemed to come together; different aspects of this year's show reminded me of that old spaghetti western "The Good, the Bad & the Ugly." You know the one I'm talking about starring Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, (no not Lee Von Erck) and Eli Wallach.
By now some of you may be thinking to yourself… “This guy’s
about a pinch short of a full bowl.” Well maybe I should explain
myself so it makes a little more sense. There were parts of this show
that were both good and bad, but if the bad continues to stick around I’m
afraid things could get pretty ugly. Here are my thoughts….
Now for Saturday, We headed down for breakfast and met up with Dock, Andy and Greg who got up before the crack of dawn and drove down (also different from past years). Usually there are at least three of four tables of pipe guys eating breakfast. This year there may have been one other. We headed out to wait in line ten minutes before the show started and at opening time there were only about fifteen people in line. Once inside there was little congestion and we were able to make our way around the room with ease. For those of you who have been to this show before, this may sound like a good thing but in actuality, it is not. We had heard that Cornell and Diehl would be there with their “sleeve of tobacco for $35” deal but they weren't there. We also had heard that all the tables were sold out but there were at least two empty tables and where there are usually tables all along the back wall, today there was one table and a table with coffee that ran out early. The prices seemed a little steeper this year as well and I overhead one vendor say “There’s a lot of lookers, but not too many buyers.”
We usually like to see our old friends from Hudson Valley which include Bill Feurbach from Kaywoodie, Paul Bonaquisti, Joe Skoda and Rolando Negoita. None of which were there. I remember looking into the room from the main entrance on several occasions and seeing lots of empty space in the aisles, normally the isles would be packed to the gills. Don't get me wrong, there still was a pretty good turn out but I'd say only two thirds of what I remember.
Lastly, and no fault of anyone’s but the show just isn’t the same without Sailorman Jack and his familiar report of “Attention! Attention!” when it was time for the raffle. Speaking of the raffle… I got a raffle ticket and never heard of anything raffled off the whole day?
We can’t just throw up our hands and give up the fight. These pipe shows are a major catalyst in keeping us connected and to help keep our community strong. There are other ways to bring back the excitement that is fading right before our eyes; we just have to be creative. Maybe we can bring back Friday night and make it a highlight of the show again. Try to keep the rooms closer together and have a sort of block party. Serve some refreshments, play some music. I honestly appreciate all the hard work that goes into putting on shows like these but has there ever been any thought to reducing the number of shows to maybe two a year? After all isn’t it the quality that matters over the quantity? Please know that I am in no way trying to put down the show or its producers. I just miss the spark and I'm letting my thoughts ramble.
There are lots of ways to keep it going and we can’t throw in the towel just yet. Please continue to support your pipe shows. Let’s help to reinvent the pipe.
Please feel free to comment and I'll post what I can in next month's newsletter.
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