Deep Thoughts

Deep Thoughts: Some Conclusions Regarding Model Shows

Over the past few months, I’ve attended several IPMS-US events, hosted by various local chapters of that organization. Richmond, VA, hosted a show in February. Raleigh, NC had a show in May. And the most recent show I attended was in Columbia, SC. All were excellent shows, each well organized. Having headed up a few IPMS shows myself, I can attest to the fact that the local clubs had to put in a lot of work.

Each show had its own special “flavor”, too. Richmond is always known for being a very large show, with enough vendors to rival the Nationals. Raleigh is a smaller show overall, in terms of venue size, but there’s always great work on display. Columbia hits somewhere between the two, with a larger venue, plenty of vendors, a wide variety of model genres represented, and a great tie-in with their local AMPS chapter.


I’ve enjoyed visiting each of them. Not only is it fun to see the vendors offerings, and the models displayed, it’s a great time of reconnecting with friends. Because the shows are all within reasonable driving distance of each other, a large number of the same folks turn up for each.

The conversations are fun… discussing everything from techniques and products to kits and aftermarket parts. Old friends are reunited, and in a few cases, sadly, we hear of the loss of a few more of our number. In an odd way, it is a sort of “family reunion”, a family drawn together by the love of the hobby.

It’s What I Do

Of course, after attending each show, I write about them. I’ve never approached it from a standpoint of thinking that what I have to say is terribly important. Writing is simply how I express myself. If I weren’t writing about my hobby, I’d be putting words down about something.

Sometimes in the course of putting thought to “paper”, so to speak, people stand up and cheer at what is said. Other times, they take scant notice, and move on by without response. In other cases, folks take the writer to task, perhaps disagreeing with some point or conclusion. 

And if the writer is hitting on all cylinders, all three take place in one bit of prose.

Changing Goals

When I set out on the road to the Columbia show, my vague goal with regards to writing about it was centered around comparing and contrasting the IPMS method of judging versus the AMPS process. Because it was a combined show, I thought it would be a good way to examine the topic, with both taking place side-by-side.

Of course, if you read the article that did follow, you recall that my focus changed. In fact, on the drive back, I was working to organize my thoughts along the originally intended purpose. Yet a few things from that days show kept bubbling up. The more I considered them, the more I realized they needed to be the thrust of the article.

Point Made, Point Taken

Whenever a writer publishes an opinion piece, there is the expectation that folks will respond in some fashion. I can’t say that most of it is “good” or “bad”, because inherent to opinion is the basic underlying notion that it is. It simply is…. it exists. I can say “Coke is the best”, and someone else can say “Pepsi is the best”, and no matter how much it is debated, polled and analyzed, in the end, the only answer is how it tastes to you. Facts may bear out that one sells better than the other, but if you like the one with lesser sales, it’s still the best, in your opinion.

So I knew that my opinion would be met with other opinion. The vast majority of it – whether it agreed with my assertions and conclusions or not – was offered respectfully and civilly. And for that I am grateful.

But one respondent left me with a thought that ultimately was the genesis of this article.

A Time To Ponder

The methods offered to respond to my articles are many. Comments can be left on the article itself. Others can be noted in various social media that I am on. A few folks took the opportunity to email me. One even called me. And as I said previously, most all were respectful, cordial, and thoughtful. I think that was what came through the most. Even if someone didn’t agree with my thoughts, their passion for the hobby came through. It wasn’t that we were opposed to each other – the goal was the same. Perhaps how to get there may have differed. But the fact that virtually all were pointed at the same target gave me great hope.

One thought offered rose above the others, and really challenged me. 

If all you have are negatives and no ideas for solutions, then you aren’t helping any, and your insight is nothing more than hindsight.

Now, when I first read, it, I thought “but it wasn’t all negatives”. My pride reacted first. However, I’ve tried to learn to discipline my thought process to really read what people offer up, to make sure that my jerking knee does not miss something important. 

I re-read that a few times, trying to draw out the intent – which wasn’t too difficult, as it was written in plain and straightforward words. As I often do mentally, I paraphrased it down to what I saw as the essential “nugget”.

If you have no ideas for solutions, your insight is nothing more than hindsight.

Some Ideas For Solutions

I won’t for a minute claim that any of these ideas or notions are original. Even if I have no recollection of hearing or seeing them elsewhere, I am quite familiar with the concept of “concurrent ideas”. With enough people looking at the same issue, at least two are bound to draw the same conclusion. A few of these were sent in to me, or are things I have discussed with fellow modelers. So these are offered up with no claim other than I physically typed them in. (Unless they really, really take off… then send checks to… I’m kidding! I’m kidding… 😀 )

In no particular order…

  • Make and take – This is a great way to get any young people, or people new to the hobby, to be involved. Show attendees can let their kids spend a few minutes building a simple model, getting the feel for how fun it really is. I’ve seen this at several shows done with success, but I’ve also seen a few miss the mark. Key to making this work seems to be simple kits that only take a few minutes to build, such as Hobbyboss’ Easy Build kits. They can literally be assembled in 5 minutes. I’m sure there are other examples, too, that have been used well. Even pre-painted kits can be used. The key is introducing the hobby to the new modeler.
  • Public classes on building and painting models – While this is not necessarily a show event (though it could be), presenting scale modeling classes in an ongoing basis can also help get the word out. Many county extension offices would love to have folks volunteer for simple demonstrations and classes. Libraries may have community space to host such an event. It doesn’t even need to be terribly formal. A club could donate kits and supplies to the cause, and charge a small fee to help grow the effort. As an example from another hobby, my wife paid $10 recently to go to a class on canning food. She came home armed with the knowledge of what to do – and a can of tasty goodies for us to enjoy.
  • Demonstrations at shows – This is of course part and parcel of many shows, but I think it could be better utilized from what I’ve observed. While many experienced modelers claim to have knowledge of this or that technique, the reality I’ve seen is that quite often they don’t. And to avoid seeming as a “newb”, they simply claim to know. In other cases, people come right out and say “how do you do that?” Both instances can be served by a good demo, showing the finer points of the technique or product. And these types of demonstrations give a show or class attendee something very valuable to take away – knowledge of the hobby.
  • Early entry cut off – This one is clearly show related. One of the biggest complaints I have heard for years is how long many shows can run, and this is often because judging is held off until noon. Moving the clock back, perhaps an hour, maybe more, would buy time for the judging process, allowing the awards and closing to be done earlier… getting people on the road sooner.
  • Tables dedicated to answering questions about getting in the hobby – Often what a younger  or less experienced modeler needs is simply some one-on-one time with a more experienced modeler. A “Q&A” table could be equipped to show a variety of products, methods, techniques, and so forth, and even give brief demonstrations right there. Print and online resources could be listed, and modelers would take away something new to try on their next build.
  • Limiting entries – While the idea of a show is to get models on the table, I’m quite familiar with the fact that sometimes modelers will grab everything on their shelves (figuratively speaking of course) to bring to a show. If awards are your focus, why not increase your chances? However, the benefit of a modeling group is not so much award but reward – the reward is in the work. Encouraging new builds can possibly be a key. So limiting entries – either by setting a cap on the number, or charging more for additional entries over a certain amount, may help in the long run to encourage new builds.
  • Reducing categories – I have some experience with this one. I’d been tasked with heading up my local club’s show one year. Based on a regional decision made prior to my tenure, our club volunteered to host a very different kind of show. Categories were reduced drastically, real prizes were offered to winners (each category 1st place received a custom engraved Badger airbrush!), and display only was encouraged. We received some great feedback – but also some (at times) vicious pushback. (I actually received threatening phone calls at my home. :/ ) But despite all that… the show finished early, people who had never participated did so because of the display only, and judging was simplified. While there are many interpretations of this one, I believe it holds merit.
  • Reaching out to other modeling organizations – The South Carolina show demonstrated how two different organizations can come together, and it seemed to work well. In general, I think care has to be taken, in terms of long term hobby growth overall, to not allow things to become a “show within a show”, but rather emphasize the strength and unique aspects of both – and encourage “cross pollination”. This can especially pay off if it is done on a long term, ongoing basis, through regular combined meetings, special inter-club events, and other activities that foster a strengthening of ties.
  • Open meeting invitations to the public – Most club meetings are held a a familiar venue to members. And while the meeting is open to all, it is not always friendly to all. By that, I don’t mean people are nice (or not). Rather, I am referring to purposefully organizing a meeting to attract non-members, or even non-modelers. Being prepared to give presentations on the value of the hobby, the processes of the hobby, and how the local club can be a resource can be a way of growing the club.
  • Adding non-traditional categories – If I took one thing away from the Richmond show, it was what might happen if non-traditional categories are added. While the focus there was on Gundam, there are others that can be added to attract wider participation. If “twin engined WWII Axis aircraft 1/72 scale and smaller” warrant a category with 2 entries, why not “Maschinen Krieger” or “Star Wars 1/72 scale and smaller” also? If  growth and perpetuation of the hobby is the goal, welcoming everyone is critical.
  • Clear judging standards – One of the things that frustrated me the most when I was in the position of head judge was getting people to adhere to judging standards. No matter how clear the rules were, and no matter how clearly they were described, there seemed to be a notion inherent in the process that certain aspects not covered in the rules (subjective things) were given priority over the rules (objective in nature) simply because the individual felt it should be that way. I think this can be addressed through very clear communication at a judging call. However, I think a longer term solution is ongoing training for judges at the local or regional level. It could even be so formalized as to have a “certified” status of some sort.
  • 123 versus GSB – Through working as part of several shows, and attending others, I have come to firmly believe that one of the biggest issues is an insistence on the 1-2-3 format of award, rather than G-S-B (Gold/Silver/Bronze). Typical, 123 views each model in competition with the others. While this may give a great feeling to the winner, I am thoroughly convinced it does not help promote interest in or growth of the hobby. The actuality is that it becomes a breeding ground for hyper-competition that not only is an ill of the contest itself, but has become the very DNA of the IPMS organization. The GSB process, on the other hand, evaluates each model on its own merit, and quite often gives the modeler detailed feedback. Of course, implementing this is easier said than done. I understand that. Yet for the long term health of “social modeling”, I believe it to be critical.

Radical ideas

Here are a few ideas that I’ll admit are a bit out there. Some are small, some grand. But they are offered as food for thought.

  • A willingness to fire judges – This one is a tag-on to the “Clear judging standards” above. I once had a fellow volunteer to judge, and he made it clear that certain guidelines that we asked to be followed would be completely ignored on his part. I made a few attempts to explain why we felt the guideline was needed, but he wouldn’t budge. Despite the fact that he was a very experienced modeler, I “fired” him. The judging went smoothly from there. 
  • One Model Per Show – This would be a sort of “put your money where your mouth is” kind of thing. I think it would be critical to match this with real prizes. The idea is to encourage really, really good work. Not just a high volume of good work scattered about on many tables to increase chances, but rather something special in each entry. I also think this would pair well with a strong “display only” category.
  • Display only shows – In the show I’d mentioned above under “Reducing Categories”, one major piece of feedback stuck with me. People really liked the display only tables. Modelers who had never been to a show told me they showed up for that specific reason. Having a show like this – perhaps in an “odd/even” year approach with contests, could really showcase the fun of the hobby. The focus would be on display, demos, buying, selling, and even tables placed around the venue for talking. All contest pressure would be off.
  • Group Competition – I’ve always wondered why this has not been done in the shows I’ve attended. My local club tried this one year, inviting the other local clubs to produce a group effort, whether it be a giant diorama, or a themed collection, or whatever. The attendees would pick the winner, and the wining club would host the trophy until the next annual event. In my own club, it created a lot of fun, an air of excitement really. We got together several times to work on the group effort, and the commonality of purpose really drew us together. Yet the idea was generally met with the sound of crickets. But I still believe that finding ways to foster intra-club competition will, in the long run, make both the local and regional/national organization stronger.

Wrapping Up

Finally, my last offering is clearly aimed beyond the local level. There needs to be a continued firm commitment, at the regional and national levels, to focus, on hobby growth, interaction with industry, teaching both existing and new modelers, and outreach to bring people in to the hobby. While I know that all in leadership are committed to those ideas, organizing in ways to “rework” the DNA of the IPMS organization to be task focused on these notions will, I believe, result in long term growth of not only the organization, but of the hobby.

People are building models. Preferences are shifting, but the generations coming along behind us “old guys” are still building things made of plastic. They may often be different things, but the love of the creative process is there. 

There is a treasure trove of institutional knowledge waiting to be passed along. Moving forward starts with ideas on how to do so.

Respectfully offered, of course. 🙂

 

16 comments

  1. Well said Jon!!!

    The issues raised previously showed that we all care about this hobby…

    As you stated there are a number of ideas out there. Each chapter has to decide for itself how best to implement them and should they work, Great! if not, re-evaluate and try it in another way or try some other idea altogether.

    There are many pros and cons to judging systems. My preference if I had to chose one would be a G-S-B system. This essentially means my work is scored on its own and I get what I deserve. Reminds me of school… 🙁

    These shows/events give us an opportunity to grow (and learn) as modelers but most importantly to re-connect with friends…

    In any event, keep up the good work!!!

  2. Getting a shameless plug out of the way first, I actually wrote an article on the subject of judging a couple days ago that is related. Spoiler alert: the figure painter guy likes the GSB system like they do at figure shows.

    https://iceaxeminiatures.com/2019/07/21/thoughts-on-judging/

    I am currently working on organizing a brand new show for next spring (if you happen to be in Ottawa in April 2020 and like figures, gundams, and toy soldiers, check it out…). We are hoping to get away from competition and focus on just display, as well as things like classes and demonstrations – basically, position our show as the show you go to if you want to learn and have a good time (I think there is room for both; in the miniature painting world in the USA, ReaperCon has the repuation as the fun show with lots of learning, and Adepticon is the show you go to if you want to seriously compete at the top level). This is in part a reaction to the local figure group having an issue where they got a bunch of Warhammer players out to their annual show one year, but then they didn’t come back the next year because they got their clocks cleaned by all the hardcore display painters.

    Some responses to your thoughts:

    – Going to GSB would fix a lot of things. You could drastically reduce categories down to the basic eight or so — aircraft, ships, automotive, figures, etc. Judges could get a head start by judging models before the submission deadline because if it is against an objective standard, they don’t need to wait for all the models to show up. No drama over splits and such, and seeing your friend win a gold isn’t bittersweet because he beat you to get it.

    – I’m not sure about having real rewards. I’ve seen in some gunpla communities that get lots of sponsorship that when you raise the stakes by having rewards that actually have a material value beyond some little plaque that collects dust, you can bring in drama and salt. It’s nice to have prize support, but it needs to be balanced so it doesn’t cause issues.

    – Regarding limiting models, I was talking to a member of my local IPMS club and mentioning that I’ve built so much stuff since our last big show two years ago, and have improved so much, that I’m not sure what to bring. I could bring something almost two years old, but that isn’t really representative of my current work, and I have five other things in that category that are more recent. His response was “anything is better than a tablecloth” and that I should bring as much as I can.

    – That said, if you do go GSB, I think limiting it to one medal per person per category makes sense. If I enter eight models in a category, just give me a silver for my best one.

  3. Thinking further, I wonder if the issues with the way we do things stems from some fundamental tension in people’s attitude towards competition.

    To engage in some lazy national stereotyping for a moment, Americans (at least, those of the generation who go to model shows) are very much a people who believe in rugged individualism and dog-eat-dog competition. None of these silly participation trophies and none of this “everyone wins” hokey. This is the land of “third place is you’re fired.” We want modellers to directly compete in a no-holds barred knock-down drag-out fight over who can clean the most seam lines and insert the tiniest details and see who reigns supreme. It’s an airbrush-fight at the OK Corral; one person wins and the other person… gets paint on himself? The idea that there can be multiple winners such as in GSB is foreign to the sensibilities of red-blooded, meat-and-potatoes Americans. It sounds vaguely socialist, and we can’t have none of that in ‘Murica (which, incidentally, is why your healthcare system is terrible, but I digress).

    Which, I suppose, is all well and good, until people start realizing that when they are up against 100 of their peers, there’s about a 99% chance that they aren’t the best of the best.

    So, we start with a system designed to put people in direct, head-to-head competition, but that gets quickly watered down. People want more and more categories and more and more splits so that they have a chance. We add “no sweeps” rules so that if Jon brings in the best three 1/48 WW2 aircraft that were ever assembled, at least someone else has a chance of going home with something and Jon didn’t ruin everyone’s day by being such an amazing modeller that the entire competition was pointless.

    To be honest, it seems kind of schizophrenic. You don’t see the NFL responding to gradually adding more expansion teams over the years by doing a bunch of splits so more players have a better chance of taking home a superbowl ring.

    Perhaps it is time to be honest with ourselves and take a good, hard look in the mirror. Do we want to reward participation, excellence, or some balance of both?

    We want to promote the hobby. We want more people to come out and join our clubs. We want to see more models on the tables at our shows. Fundamentally, we want more participation in our hobby and in our events. So, once we get over these hang-ups over our need for brutal competition and feeling like winning only matters if other people lose, maybe a system that balances rewarding participation and excellence is the way to go?

    Or, if you want to really be competitive, go in the complete opposite direction and fully embrace that glorious American attitude. No splits, no constant expansion of categories, no “no sweeps” rules… if you don’t like that your model didn’t get an award because there were 50 other models in your category, don’t demand more categories, suck it up and build a better model. First place is a new Harder & Steenbeck, second place is a bottle of paint, third place is your model gets thrown in a wood chipper (okay, that might be a bit harsh).

    I, for one, am down for the former, not the latter. But trying to do both results in what we have now; a system that is unwieldy and in danger of collapsing under its own weight (I say this as someone who once spent multiple hours in a meeting just figuring out categories for a 123 show).

    Final thought: at a model show, everyone who is proud enough of their work to show it off is a winner and the true prize is be the friends you make along the way… but does the way we run them encourage or discourage that kind of attitude?

  4. Some interesting ideas and observations, Jon.

    I would say that we have discussed (and still continue to discuss) most of these ideas as we look at what we can do and change to shift the focus of our own annual show from COMPETITION to EXHIBITION. We’re working on it, and each year we make small, but often fundamentally important, changes to how we run our shows. We’re taking a long-term approach, though, with an appreciation that if we try to change things too much at one time, the regional modeling community might rebel on us.

    However, we’re willing to “suck up” some low-level griping about this or that in order to eventually reach our goal which is the scale model exhibition which features little to no actual competition. This is an alien concept to most model show regulars (at least in our region), so we accept that it may take us a number of YEARS before that’s the kind of show we can host. We have to educate and sway the opinions of many, many modelers before they’ll be willing to patronize a show where the main focus is on public exhibition and modeling community socializing rather than on “winning and losing.”

    However, we believe that once we get there, we’ll be able to divert so many resources that we now expend on the competition side of things to other experiences that will enhance the event. For instance, if we didn’t have to spend hours of the show schedule along with many, many man-hours of judging and competition admin, we’d be able to fill those periods of our show with seminars and demonstrations. Imagine a scale model show that featured club tables and individual exhibitions where everyone was spending time together looking at and talking about the models.

    One observation that I’d make for those folks reading your blog and who agree that some of these ideas are good ones that should be implemented: In the end, what can be done at any given show is limited to the resources available, and that the number one limiting resource is MANPOWER.

    I’ve been involved with a lot of model shows over many decades. In my experience most model clubs are very close to the limit on available workers when they run any show. There simply are not enough willing workers to add on many of these things that would, indeed, make the event more enjoyable while also promoting it and encouraging new folks to take up scale modeling.

    This is one reason why I highly encourage each and every modeler reading this to GET INVOLVED by helping out at every local show that he or she attends. Involvement is more than just registering your models and paying your entry fees and then walking away to shop the vendors. Involvement is getting with the hosting club and offering to help with whatever needs doing.

    If you’re one of the folks who would like to see demonstrations, seminars, club tables, “make and takes” and all sorts of other enhancing events at shows, then YOU need to be a part of that. Your help and time adds to the resources that the hosting club has available. By offering up some of your own time and effort, you free up others to take on some of these other jobs. Sure, it might not create something new at the show you’re attending at some particular time, but with regular assistance that hosting clubs can count on, as they plan their next year’s show, they just might be able to carve out something new to add.

    Happy modeling!

  5. Auto model builders have been following the NNL (Nameless National Luminaries) format of (mostly) non-competitive shows for years now. There are usually one or two theme classes for the year and an overall peoples’ choice winner selected by popular vote, but in general, everybody is just there to exhibit. Works in progress are as welcome as finished projects, and the tables full of ideas and wonders to see.
    This format works better in some areas than in others. SoCal, for instance really seems to want trophies and a 1-2-3 format, though one or two smaller exhibition style shows still exist.
    Up in Santa Clara, CA, the NNL West show in January regularly tops 1,000 models displayed in a huge hall with dozens of vendors. They have added to the awards by having promoter’s choice awards from the members of the hosting club, and allow visiting clubs to award their favorite build with whatever trophy they bring to the show, but in general, those are just icing on a very tasty, multi-layer cake.
    Anyway, just to confirm that it CAN be done, but will likely require some tweaking to accommodate the military modelers.

  6. Hello again. It was I that wrote, “If all you have are negatives and no ideas for solutions, then you aren’t helping any, and your insight is nothing more than hindsight.”
    I’m sorry that I came off too strong, but I was pretty passionate about our show and our respective clubs put a lot of work into it, and at the time it seemed like you were ripping into it.
    After I saw this article, I went and re-read yours and what you wrote wasn’t all negative, but I still stand by my words.
    Anyway, thank you for the recommendations. We will take them to heart for our next MEGA SHOW. We won’t be able to incorporate all of your suggestions; baby steps you know.
    Hopefully, you will come next June. Please look for us, the Swamp Foxes (IPMS) or the Mid-Carolina Wildcats (AMPS) and say hello. We don’t bite. Maybe we can put you to work. We love JUDGES!

    Respectfully,

    Matthew

  7. Interesting topic, Jon!

    For me, my #1 change in contests would be limiting modelers to 1 entry per category (assuming a strict no-sweeps rule).

    If you’ve not had this experience while judging, you end up having to hold a “mini contest” between the multiple models by 1 individual to decide which of his entries should go up against the other modelers in the category. The worst I ever experienced was at my 2nd Nationals where someone had entered about 7-8 kits in one category, along with the various modelers who only had 2-3 entries. (Worse, the lead judge in my trio insisted on giving each of these entries an inspection that would rival one you’d do between a really close 1st & 2nd – long night…)

    Putting the burden on the judges at small events, or even at Nationals, to sort out your builds and pick the best is counterproductive and smacks of trying to placate to the judges whims to win; i.e., putting so much on the table that a judge is bound to find one of your builds meeting their own internal standard or simply finding it personally attractive in some way. Even in sports that are mostly subjective (Figure Skating, Drifting), you don’t get to present multiple performances to suit each judges personality & individual hangups. You put what you think is your best work out there, hope the judges are fair and honest, and the results are what they are.

    (As a total side rant, why don’t we do what the subjective sports do, and have both technical and artistic scores? Still have a group of judges (or judge) rank the models by their basic construction skills, just as IPMS/USA’s rulebook stated they do, then have a broader group of judges score each model on artistic merit, toss out the top & bottom scores, then average and add to a score that’s based on the construction rank, and you’ve got a winner that is represented on both fronts).

    My #2 change for contests would be to the physical awards handed out. As some people care about them, and some don’t, let’s all agree that you don’t need a plaque for 3rd, 2nd (and probably even 1st), and a certificate should be enough to placate a grown adult. We can still honor the overall winners with nicer awards, or all winners at larger regional shows & the Nationals, however, with the costs of venues these days, the 150+ awards typically given out becomes a real burden when someone expects a plaque or similar at the cost of a few dollars each. Especially when given for “no competition” places, leading to…

    #3, Stop giving out awards when there is no competition! That IS a participation award. Only 2 models in the category? Only award a 1st. Only 3? Just 1st-2nd. If no one else shows up for your category? Congrats, you’re now in contention for best subject (potentially best of show!?), but you’ve not won anything yet.

    I’m sure I could come up with more, but my final change, #4, would be to broaden the scope of the “special” awards.
    First, they become a category unto themselves. So your model is either in the special” Xth Anniversary of Y” category, or it isn’t. This means you’ll probably compete with an assortment of model types, but these awards are usually pitched as something fun, above and beyond the regular contest, and intended to get more people building more models within the special theme. This is not typically how these are run (usually the models are scattered amongst the various disciplines & categories), but it allows the theme to stand out and be showcased. Even say, a best Spitfire theme, means that the aircraft are split into at least 3 categories based on scale alone, if not most likely further divided by their markings or timeframe of usage. So who even knows what to look out for, other than the judge who has to make the call, and the individual modeler(s) who checked a box to be included? The general public and the majority of modeler might not have any idea about a theme special award until it’s handed out at the awards.
    Second, if you want to attract modelers who don’t stick to the classic Plane/Tank/Ship/Car categories, then the contest needs to have broad, artistic special/theme awards, again, competing in their own category. A great example would be simply a color, say blue. There are so many ways to meet that criteria – blue paint, blue camo, blue markings, blue seas, an aircraft from the USN’s Blue Blazers, a Marine in Dress Blues, or even a diorama with downtrodden or defeated figures feeling “blue.” Just be creative and build something.

    There is so much room at the local contests for experimentation without actually even changing the core event. Either it will be something that works, or can be dropped for the next one. I wish the IPMS/USA Nats would encourage a few of their own experiments that might trickle down to the local contest. I don’t know that modelers as a group are ever going to be the radical change type. Doing something just a bit different might lead to change. Start with an abstract theme category that is well received, mixes multiple modeling disciplines, and promotes some fun & artistry over perfecting the basic modeling skills, and you’re halfway to a robust display-only turnout.

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