Prolog

The following is Part 5 in a five-part series on the history of the HGMS Show.

Part 1: 1948–1968 Early Days (in May 2006 BBG)
Part 2: 1969–1977 Rise to Prominence (in June 2006 BBG)
Part 3: 1978–1989 On Top of the World (in July 2006 BBG)
Part 4: 1990–2000 Fall from Grace (in August 2006 BBG)
Part 5: 2001–Present The Phoenix (in August 2006 BG)

Complete statistical information concerning show finances, attendance, and dealer figures for the period 1957–2005 can be found on graphs at the end of this article.

Erratum: In Part 4, I mistakenly had a heading for the 2000 show that read: “2000 – Mother’s Day (May 19-21)”. This is the correct date; however, I specify in the previous paragraph that it actually represents the week after Mother’s Day. That week was actually worse than Mother’s Day because it was graduation week for many schools. In fact, there was a graduation ceremony upstairs in the GRB at the same time as our show on Saturday. We made an attempt to attract these graduates into our show, but they had more important things to attend to. In our post-mortem analysis of the show, our dealers were quick to point out our poor judgment in choosing the dates. These things merely added to our frustration in dealing with the GRB and contributed to the events that followed the conclusion of this show.

Part 5: 2001-2005 – The Phoenix

Introduction: The beginning of Part 5 finds a club that, in many ways, is in search of a new identity. The largest financial obligation in the club’s history—the mortgage note on the clubhouse—was paid off in 1999, thus allowing the club to breathe a little easier. With a first-rate clubhouse that was all theirs, the club now had a chance to focus on something else besides the repayment of the mortgage (and having enough money to pay the bills), which is all they were focused on during the previous decade. One obvious need was to rebuild the annual show, which had been decimated by the combined effects of our venue (who didn’t allow us to settle on a regular date for the show), competition from Intergem (who slowly worked itself into the enviable position of draining every last jewelry-dollar from Houston on an annual basis), and our own club, which was more concerned with making as much money as possible than maintaining a healthy show in the long run.

Consider the differences in our annual show between the end of Part 3 of this history and the end of Part 4. In 1989, 83 dealers attended to 8,100 attendees (a customer-to-dealer (C/D) ratio of 98). Show profits were $29,320 on expenses of $39,584, translating into a profit margin of 74%. At that rate, it’s no wonder the club was not worried about the prospect of paying off its horrendous mortgage balloon note in 1995. Fast forward to 2000, the dawn of the new millennium, and we find 50 dealers attending to 1804 attendees (C/D of 36). Show profits were $7,513 on expenses of $42,784, for a profit margin of 18%.

However, there was hope on the horizon. As described at the end of Part 4, the Board had accepted a proposal in September of 2000 to move the show from the GRB to the Humble Civic Center (HCC). This move was not without accompanying risk. The HCC was located in far north Houston and would most certainly not draw from the southern potions of the city. It was located in a small suburb and was about a mile off of the freeway, not an easily reachable locality unless one was deliberately trying to find it. It was also substantially smaller than the GRB, certainly a drawback to those still wishing for a large show. However, the Board and Show Committee felt it was plenty large enough to hold the show as it was configured in 2000.

There were also several positives associated with this venue. It was a new construction, having been completed in 1997. It also had a very nice visual presence. The exterior was a commanding white building set amongst the pines. All rooms were carpeted and contained high ceilings with good lighting. There were several rooms off to the side of the main ballroom that could be used for other events. Hallways surrounding the main ballroom on three sides were spacious enough to be used for various activities. But the main advantage of the HCC was that the management appreciated our presence and was more than willing to give us a long-term contract for the same weekend each year. This one fact was worth its weight in gold.

Club Personnel: Probably the greatest loss in the new century was the death of Dalton Prince in July of 2004 from liver cancer. Dalton served as Vice President in 1985 and 1986, President in 1987, and Past President in 1988 and 1989. He was a regular figure in our annual show for more than 20 years as the co-proprietor of Collector’s Choice with his wife, Consie. You could always tell where he was, with a crowd surrounding him as he broke geodes, wearing his old, weather-beaten hat that looked like it would disintegrate on his head. Consie stopped doing shows upon his death although she kept their shop adjacent to their house. She recently followed him to the afterlife in June of 2006. She is remembered for her contributions as BBG editor in 1975 and 1976, followed by SCFMS (South-Central Federation) newsletter editor and then AFMS (American Federation) newsletter editor. She also served as an HGMS director from 1984-1986.

Dalton Prince displaying opened geodes

As we are now up to the present decade in the history of the show, I feel there are some current club members who deserve special recognition as a result of service to the Society above and beyond the call of duty. These members can still be found around the club, helping out as they have done for decades and serving as an inspiration to us all:

Irene Offeman – Irene and her husband, Richard, joined the fledgling club in 1960. By 1961, Richard was President and Irene was Show Chairman. (In case anybody is counting, that was 45 years ago!) In 1968, wanting to spread knowledge about mineral and fossil ID, she formed the ID Service at our show along with Ed Pedersen. This important service to the public and our club lasted 14 years until 1983 when the responsibility was taken on by the various Sections.

In 1969, Irene and Myrt Yarbrough were instrumental in fostering the idea of special interest sections within the club. When that came to pass, she held the first paleo classes, and thus was born the Paleo Section. She has either led or has been a mentor and guiding force behind the Paleo Section during its entire existence. She still makes Paleo Section meetings when she is able to get a ride from another member.

Art Smith – Art was first tapped by Irene Offeman for mineral ID in the ID Service in 1972. He continues doing this on a yearly basis because it’s what he loves doing. He has now performed this service for 34 years.

He decided to join the club after the 1973 show specifically to share his love of minerals and mineral collecting with other enthusiasts in the Mineral Section, capably led by Ed Pedersen. When Ed was transferred to Denver in 1978, others had to step up to run the Section, including Art, Ron Carman, and Steve Blyskal, who all shared terms as Section Chairman.

Soon after we moved into the new clubhouse in 1985, Art agreed to be the Librarian because the post was open. Initially we didn’t have many books, and Art started donating portions of his own library to the club. Today, thanks to Art, we have a large, well-stocked and indexed library that is available for our members to use. Art continues to run the library, along with being the de facto historian and providing mentorship of the Mineral Section.

Tom Wright – Tom joined the club in 1977. By 1979 or 1980 he was teaching classes at the old clubhouse, where he had to haul his equipment down to the clubhouse and haul it away again at the conclusion of the class. His classes include chasing and repose, lost wax casting, and mold making.

Tom’s involvement with the show began in 1982 when he became the Working Exhibits Chairman for the National Show. In 1984 while he was Vice President of the club, he agreed to help run the show but found himself Show Chairman when the person who was to perform that task disappeared. He has continued to help out on Show Committees since that time, including stints as Publicity Chairman in the fall of 1996 and in 1997.

His leadership of the club began in 1983 when he resurrected a declining Lapidary Section. He was President in 1985 and 1986, Past President in 1987, President again in 1990 and 1991, and Past President in 1992. He started being Clubhouse Chairman in 1992 and has continued that post throughout most of the 90s and 2000s. You can still find him at the clubhouse on most Saturdays, helping teach others lapidary and faceting arts.

Gary Anderson – Gary joined the club in 1979. He naturally gravitated toward helping out at the shop in the old clubhouse under Tom DeHart. When we moved into the new clubhouse in 1985, Gary became the Shop Foreman. He held this post until the early 2000s when the running of the shop became a committee task. You can still find him there on most Saturdays, polishing his own agates, petrified wood, and dino bone, while helping instruct others on the proper use of the equipment.

Gary’s service to the show began in 1985 when he started organizing the rental trucks needed to transport our equipment and supplies from the new clubhouse to the show. He also started laying out the electrical plans for the show and working with the venue electrician to make sure we had power at the show. This became an important task as the show rapidly expanded in the late 80s. His work with the George R. Brown Convention Center electricians in the 1990s was crucial to make sure our power needs were met.
His leadership of the club began in the early 1990s when he led the nominating committee for most of the first half of the decade. But by 1995 his luck ran out, and, finding no other candidates, the committee turned on him and coerced him to take the presidency. He was President in 1996 and 1997, Past President in 1998, President again in 1999, and Past President in 2000.

Charlie Fredregill – Charlie joined in 1985 after going to the 1984 show and seeing Tom Wright perform lost wax casting. This interested Charlie very much, and he wanted to learn how to do it. In the process, Charlie and Tom became good friends because they shared similar interests. Charlie started helping peripherally with the show in the late 1980s.

In 1990 with Tom as President, Charlie became a Board Director, and in 1991 became 1st VP, again under Tom. Also in 1991, Tom convinced Charlie to become Show Chairman, not because Charlie was experienced or had an interest in doing this, but because the Show Committee was in tatters after Ben Noble and R.C. Estes got through with it. This led to Charlie’s presidency in 1992 and past presidency in 1993 and 1994. Because Charlie ran a printing business, he printed the BBG for several years, and he also printed publicity material for the show until his retirement.

But Charlie’s real love is in the lapidary arts. He has taught and continues to teach wire wrapping, lost wax casting, soldering, and cabbing. As with Tom Wright, Charlie can still be found at the club on Saturday working on his own material and teaching others.

Beverly Mace – Beverly joined in 1985. She gravitated toward the Youth Section where she helped Janelle Walker for many years until she became Youth Section Chairman in 1991. This led her to be involved in the annual show because the Youth Section has a booth there. They have games for kids, interesting educational exhibits, and the “Rock Village.” She has now led the Youth Section, along with running their booth at the show, for 15 years.

In 1994 she also became the 2nd Vice President, who is the person responsible for maintaining the membership roster. Eventually, this led to her being responsible for sending out the BBG since she could make the required labels from her roster database. For many years she would give the labeled BBGs to Robert Evans to sort by zip code, fill out the required forms, and take to the bulk mail window at the Bellaire post office. But with the advent of the computer program Dazzle Express in 2001, the job became easy enough that Beverly takes care of the whole thing herself. She is now in her 12th year as 2nd VP.

Phyllis George – Phyllis joined in 1994, making her a relative “newbie.” But she didn’t wait long to wade into the thick of it. She volunteered to become Dealer Chairman in late 1994 and held that post through both of the “2-show” years (1995 and 1996), meaning she did four shows. She earned praise from all quarters for her professional handling of the sometimes precarious situation caused by having too many dealers and not enough attendees. She was well respected by dealers and the Show Committee alike for her diligence and honesty.

During her tenure as Dealer Chairman, another sticky situation arose, to which Phyllis, in her typically helpful manner, volunteered to help remedy: Between 1992 and 1995, the BBG had been produced by a total of six people. Sometimes it wasn’t produced at all, other times it was only one or two pages. But in December 1995, the BBG was again without an editor and the club was once again desperate. Phyllis volunteered to provisionally produce it for four months while they looked for another editor. Unfortunately for her, she did such a good job at it (and actually liked it!) that everyone insisted she stay on as editor, which she did. This meant that in 1996 she arranged for dealers in two separate shows while compiling and editing 12 BBGs. Tell me that wasn’t a busy time!

Under Phyllis’ continued editorship, now in her 11th year, the BBG regularly wins awards for excellence in national competition. But recently the club had another desperate need, and in her usual manner, Phyllis stepped up to help. We started our Web site in 2000, but by late 2004 we were without a webmaster for the second time. By then having a Web site was a necessary evil, and it was simply not acceptable to let our Web site go down. So, despite knowing absolutely nothing about Web site functionality and only a little about HTML, Phyllis volunteered to be the new webmaster in January of 2005. She immediately applied herself to learning the things she needed to know in order to accomplish the task at hand.

And guess what? In 2005 HGMS won the award for the best Web site in the SCFMS. I have no doubt that 2006 will bring similar awards. (Note: We would do the same thing in the AFMS if there were such a category in national competition, but I guess change comes slowly in some quarters.)

These are but a few examples of club members who are doing what they can to make our club what it is today. We owe them and many others our thanks.

Changes in Show Philosophy: Because of the decline in the quality and financial results of our annual show, it was apparent some changes needed to be made. The change in venue was a good start, but there were other structural changes that were necessary in order to revive the flagging show. The list of five recommendations I delivered to the Board in June of 2000 (described at the end of Part 4) along with a discussion of how we achieved these goals is given below:

 1)    Fall is a better time for retail sales, but above all the date must be consistent. In the questionnaire sent to the club in the summer of 2000, a clear preference was indicated for having a fall show. This was traditionally the time when we have had our show, stretching back to the Shamrock days. It is also a better time of year because the Christmas shopping season has the highest retail sales of the entire year. This fact becomes painfully apparent if you contact any of the convention centers in the Houston area and ask if they have any available fall dates.

So, prior to signing a contract with the HCC, there were a number of discussions concerning a date for our show. The Board and Show Committee had decided that we should go back to our traditional show date in the month of September. However, September has the additional complication that we did not want to interfere with the Denver show, traditionally the second week of September. It turned out we didn’t have to worry about that being a problem—the HCC had three regular shows the first three weekends in September, including the Cat Show and the Stamp Show. So we signed an agreement to be on the 4th weekend in September.

However, this ended up severely irritating the Victoria Gem & Mineral Society which had their show on the last weekend in September, a date that alters every three or four years between the 4th weekend and 5th weekend. Because we were a much bigger show, several of their dealers, who were also our dealers, told the Victoria club that they would have to cancel out of the Victoria show if they didn’t move it. This the Victoria club did, but they were not very happy about it. It has taken me several years to make up this rift with them, but I believe I have done that by helping them with the success of their show and by giving presentations at their club meetings.

2)    We need quality guidelines for dealer acceptance and need to be governed by the all-important customer-to-dealer ratio. Since my initiation into the Show Committee was via the Dealer Chairman position, I had first-hand experience with the complaints of our dealers. Thus, during my first year in this position, it was intuitively obvious that some drastic measures had to be taken in order to restore dealer confidence. After all, the first basic tenant of show production is that if your primary exhibitors are not happy, your show will suffer. Thus, my plan was to take some positive measures to deal with dealer dissatisfaction. At first, the only thing this could entail was being responsive to dealer needs and complaints and by being friendly to them. During this period I got to know most of our dealers on a first name basis. This friendship has transcended time, so that these dealers are comfortable with our show and our leadership.

However, warm and fuzzy feelings can be taken only so far, and it was plainly obvious more work needed to be done. My strategy for taking care of our dealers was a simple one: make the show successful and our dealers would be happy. This may be an obvious strategy, but my real objective was actually more sinister—to return to the “glory days” where we had a full show with dealers on a waiting list to get in. Why did I want to do this? Because it would make the Dealer Chairman’s job a lot easier. As it stood in 2000, it was impossible to get dealers to sign up because they really had no desire to participate in a lukewarm show. Thus, a very large effort had to be put into calling a large number of dealers just to make our numbers. In addition, at that time dealers were supposed to send half of their payment with their contracts and then the second half about three months prior to the show. This rarely happened, and it was hopeless to try to enforce it when dealers were lackadaisical about being in our show in the first place. As far as I was concerned, this attitude had to change. And it wouldn’t change unless the show itself changed.

Following this chain of logic, presuming the show was made successful once again, and presuming as a result we had plenty of dealers to choose from, then it follows that there needed to be guidelines on what kind and how many dealers we would accept. While this may sound elementary, these things were completely absent in the last half of the 1990s. (Want an example? The Houston Chronicle regularly had a table at our show. When I asked why, I was told that their money was as good as anybody else’s). We have to go back to the 1980s and the Dealer Selection Committee to see these principles in action.

So, taking a cue from our “forefathers” in the 1980s, the new Show Committees in the early 2000s worked on guidelines concerning the number and types of dealers we wanted in our show. These guidelines went through some modification in the first few years at the HCC as we figured out what worked with our new customer base and what didn’t. For instance, the heritage we were left with from the GRB days consisted of a large number of jewelry dealers. After our first show at the HCC in 2001, which as expected wasn’t well attended, the majority of complaints were from jewelry dealers. Thus, our first “structural modification” of the dealer mix was to eliminate some of them and replace them with other types of dealers. Further, we observed that high-end jewelry and “mall store” type jewelry vendors didn’t fit well in our show, and so that class of dealer was eliminated from our mix.

I haven’t written much about dealer numbers because we soon realized that we could only fit about 40 dealers into the main ballroom of the HCC, thus muting those still numerous voices that apparently never will stop calling for maximum numbers of dealers at all costs. Make no mistake—those voices were still in the club in the early 2000s. For these people, the results of our shows stretching back to 1992 mattered not; to them dealers equaled money and to have only 40 dealers meant throwing away good money. My only comment is that this is precisely the attitude that got us in this predicament in the first place.

3)    We need to attract kids. Back in the days of Carleton Reid, we used to have busloads of kids come to the show on Friday. Carleton was the club historian and also had an avid interest in educating kids about geology and rocks. He would visit schools, Scouts, and youth clubs of all sorts, giving presentations. He would also pass out fliers to our show and invite the teachers to bring their kids to learn more about rockhounding and the lapidary arts. Not surprisingly, we had a lot of kids attending on Friday in those days, and also not surprisingly, attendance at those shows regularly surpassed 8,000. But with Carleton’s passing in the mid-1980s, nobody emerged to replace him and so the number of kids attending our show fell into a long, slow decline. In the 1990s, the job of trying to attract kids fell to Youth Group Chairperson Beverly Mace who would send out a large number of letters to schools inviting them to our show. But she readily admits this was not adequate and that something more needed to be done. This was clearly demonstrated when a total of 121 people attended on Friday of the dismal Graduation Day show in 2000.

The question may legitimately be asked: Why should we expend effort trying to get kids to our show? After all, they generate almost no ticket income (kids’ tickets were 50 cents to a dollar in the 1990s), and they don’t spend money with our dealers. The answer to this question is two-fold.

a)    For those bottom-line type of folks, kids come with parents who do generate ticket income and who do spend money with dealers. (Besides, contrary to this common misconception, in the last few years we have found that kids do have money, and they do spend it with our dealers. Just ask any of our dealers who carry kids’ items.) If the kids come on Friday with their schools, many of them go home and tell their parents about the show (i.e. free publicity), and many come back on the weekend. This is particularly true if the show is interesting and has things to attract kids and families.

b)    However, the real reason we should cater to kids lies in the heart of our charter and our mission statement. The HGMS Web site identifies us as “a not-for-profit organization dedicated to study in the areas of earth science and related fields and arts. A major focus of the HGMS is education.” Inside the front cover of the BBG it says that “the objectives of this Society are to promote the advancement of the knowledge and practice of the arts and sciences associated with….” and then it goes on to list a large number of things we do. The fact is that any society or club that does not somehow attract new members, particularly younger ones, is most likely in a slow death spiral which will culminate in its own extinction.

Thus, given the acceptance of the two points above by the new Show Committee, it was readily apparent that some drastic changes were needed. One of the things I did during my first two years as Dealer Chairman was to visit the regional shows in this part of the state. These visits told me a great deal about how other clubs construct their shows. Some of these shows were successful, and I borrowed ideas from them. Some were plainly not successful, and thus I tried not to repeat their mistakes.

One of the success stories was the kids’ program at the Victoria show. A few of their club members held positions within the Victoria ISD, and thus knew what it took to attract school kids to a show on Friday. I had a long talk with these people at their show and followed this up with e-mail communications where they sent me their schedule for contacting the VISD in the months prior to the show and the letters they sent to the teachers.

Based on this, we formed a new committee within the Show Committee called simply the Show Education Committee. I sought teachers and ex-teachers within our club to staff this committee because I knew we needed some inside knowledge of how teachers operate and what it would take to attract them to our show. Thus, in 2001 the committee consisted of Lexy Bieniek, Holly Smith, and Chris Peek, who were all teachers, Beverly Mace, who was the previous Show Education Committee Chairman, and me. Our first task was to create an earth science program for teachers who visited our show with their students. We called this School Daze. The main component of School Daze was an age-appropriate scavenger hunt that would be drawn from questions submitted by interested dealers (they all were sent a form to return with their questions) and by our demonstrators and Section booths.

To promote School Daze, we developed a flier to be sent out to schools telling them of our program. We obtained the regional databases of schools and targeted 3rd and 5th grades, which have TEKS requirements in earth science. We also attended education conferences where we developed a sign-up list of teachers interested in earth science. And finally, we also reached out to the home school community by getting on their bulletin boards, advertising in their newsletters, and attending their education conferences.

The results have been nothing short of astounding. We built an educational program from scratch, spending our first year wondering if anybody would come and facing resistance from school administrators who said we were nothing but a retail show. This morphed completely by 2004, when our focus shifted to worrying about how we were going to manage the huge crowds of kids that packed the place on Friday.

4)    We need to stifle the rotating Show Committee membership problem. In Part 3 of this history, I recounted the unfortunate episode in 1984 that unceremoniously shoved Tom Wright into his first term as Show Chairman, and the consequent change in the bylaws dictating that the purpose of the Assistant Show Chairman was to learn the ropes so that he or she could be Show Chairman the following year. There were periods in the next two decades when this worked fine, such as 1991–1993 which smoothly rotated such show chairmen as Charlie Fredregill, Bill Butler, and John Emerson. However in many other years, its legacy was not so bright. Ron Carman ended up as Show Chairman in 1986, 1988, and 1989 because nobody else could be found. Ron Talhelm forged through the spring and fall shows of 1995 and the fall show of 1996 for similar reasons. During many years there were no Assistant Show Chairmen until late in the year, and so the Show Chairmen ended up doing a ton of work.

This is not how things are supposed to go. It creates an endless cycle of overworked Show Chairmen and a dearth of volunteers to take some of that load off of them because they’re afraid that the same calamity will befall them the following year. This leads to the tendency for “relearning the wheel” as new Show Committees take office after previous Show Committees have flown the coop. Anybody with a basic knowledge of business management will readily see that this is a very poor way to do business.

So, as I saw it in 2000, the first thing that had to be done is to undo what had been done in 1985. In my opinion, the Assistant Show Chairman needed to be someone who would help take the load off the Show Chairman without having to feel obligated to be Show Chairman the following year, in the same way that a company Vice President takes the load off of the President. This was accomplished in a bylaw revision effort during Elizabeth Fisher’s term as President in 2000. But old habits die hard, and the Board ended up having to further revise the bylaw language in 2005 to specify more clearly how the Show Chairman and Assistant Show Chairman are selected each year.

The next task in this transition will take some time—convincing the club membership that the Assistant Show Chairman is really supposed to do work and not just be a warm body waiting to slide over to the Show Chairman’s seat the following year.

5)    We need to have an attention-grabbing headliner exhibit for the show. This is all part of the general philosophy that a show is supposed to be interesting (as was discussed in the epilog of Part 4 of this history). In that epilog, I made the case that shows are made interesting by having activities and attractions other than (and in addition to) retail dealers. It is true that people attend rock shows to see rocks. But I am striving to move beyond that and enable (for instance) families to come and enjoy the show even if only some of the family are rockhounds. The same goes for school groups, or for two friends who get together and decide to come to the show but only one is a rockhound.

But the heading of this section refers to a specific application of this philosophy—the “hook,” as advertising people call it. In today’s media-saturated world, it is very difficult to get through the background clutter and get your message to your target audience. Thus, advertising people usually rely on a single item or event that they feel will attract someone’s attention for the 3-5 seconds necessary to get the message through. If the “hook” has piqued their interest enough, they will spend more time digesting the rest of the information in the advertisement. If not, they’re gone.

I felt strongly that we needed such a hook in our show. Strongly enough that I hoped to go to lengths that most other shows would not go—give my headliner and primary supporting attractions free entry into the show. The reason this was such a sticky point is because some of these demonstrators also had stock they were permitted to sell. Thus, because of this unusual (and some would call very gracious) arrangement, it was apparent that official Board approval of this technique would be required. This was done in August of 2002 after considerable discussion among the Board.

The primary headliner was Dino World. I met George Blasing at the Austin show and had some discussions with him about attending our show as a dealer. However his T. rex skull replica (“Stan”), along with his numerous other dino replicas, were very appealing, and I started thinking about creating a full-blown promotion centered on Stan. George is also very promotion-conscious, and he readily agreed to my plan. This has proven to be a very smart move as George and Stan created the “branding” we needed. This branding has become so well-entrenched that we decided to move forward with a major expansion of Dino World’s space and attractions in 2005. I’ll describe this in more detail in the section dealing with that show year.

Our secondary headliner was John Fischner’s Dreamstar Productions. John has been a known quantity to our show dating from the late 1980s. He sculpts dino models of varying sizes and works on them at the show. It was a perfect match to compliment Dino World and Stan.

2001, Our First Year at the HCC: Preparations for this show started promptly following the Board’s decision to move to the HCC in September of 2000. The Board wanted a Show Chairman to spearhead efforts for the new show. I didn’t think I was ready for Show Chairmanship so I turned down their offer. In retrospect I probably was ready, but because I remember my feelings of doubt, I can fully understand when people we now ask turn us down because they think they are not ready for the position.

In any event, I offered to be Assistant Show Chairman, and John Moffitt volunteered to be Show Chairman. Since John came from outside the Show Committee, he had a lot of fresh and different ideas about things. His main contribution was helping to revamp the publicity effort (described below). Unfortunately, his personality takes some getting used to, and turned out to be too much of a shock for the existing Show Committee, most of whom simply left. So our first task was to repopulate the committee with fresh bodies. We used the questionnaire the Board had sent out that summer for this purpose. One of the questions on that form asked if the respondent was willing to help with the Show Committee, and I called all those answering affirmative. Through that process, I met many club members that I had not known before, creating relationships that survive to this day.

John jumped right into it and started shaking things up immediately. His first move was to call the first Show Committee meeting at the house of a new member named John Lind on Tuesday, September 12, 2000. This was a refreshing change of pace and John certainly didn’t disappoint at the meeting when he gave one of his rousing speeches about new beginnings and how we all need to pull together.

We followed that with a budget presentation to the Board on October 3. Many of the items were estimates since this was our first year at the HCC. But we decided to push the envelope with publicity and asked for $13,000. The Board had no problem with that, but didn’t believe our estimate of $15,000 in ticket income and cut us back to $13,000. Along with a few other changes, the Board approved our budget. It called for $31,600 in expenses and $10,600 in profit, which was a profit margin of 33%. This alone was good news, as it was a drop of about 25% in expenses from the GRB and triple the profit margin.

New Floor Plan: There were many things to be taken care of as soon as possible. Among the top items was to completely revamp the floor plan. For this I solicited the help of the HCC management to supply me with examples of floor plans for other events at their facility. These I supplied to Ron Talhelm who graciously had his draftsman friend at Freeman Decorating work up a rough draft for our use. Over the ensuing several months, we revised this original draft and came to a consensus as to how we wanted to use our available floor space. Part of this effort included a walkthrough at the HCC on Saturday morning, January 13, 2001. Fifteen people attended, and we measured out the hallways and special events rooms, trying to envision how the different section booths would fit.

Our plan basically codified our philosophy on the purpose and practice of the “new” show. The main tenant of this philosophy was that we wanted our show to be an educational show (in contrast with Intergem, which is a dealer show). In line with this philosophy, the retail dealers occupied the main ballroom of the HCC, and our educational activities surrounded the main ballroom in the three hallways as well as in the smaller, auxiliary rooms. Our educational features included our own demo area (staffed by the Lapidary Section and Faceting Section), Mineral Section booth and fluorescent mineral enclosure, Paleo Section booth, Youth Section activities, Swap Area, and case exhibits. Non-HGMS educational features included HMNS, the Archaeological Society, Dino World with Stan the T. rex (Figure 1), and Dreamstar. Rounding out the usage of available floor space was the concession area and our own Hospitality area.

Figure 1: Dino World's Stan the T. rex. In the foreground is George Blasing, owner of Dino World.

In addition, one meeting room each was used for a video display room and a lecture room. These activities were headed by Terry Proctor. Terry did a lot of work putting together a list of speakers and videos, and he had signs printed and put up at the entrance of the show and in front of the rooms holding these activities. Unfortunately, Terry didn’t get his program put together early enough to make use of John Moffitt’s publicity, and as a consequence, nobody entering the show knew these events would be taking place. In addition, we discovered that the hallway containing the meeting rooms was not traveled by most people as they circulated through the show. These factors conspired to doom Terry’s programs to a slim audience. We cancelled programs altogether in 2002.

Education: Other than the floor plan, the three main show activities that needed to be kicked off ASAP were publicity, dealer contracts, and education. As I mentioned, the Show Education Committee was new in 2001. This committee met in the fall of 2000 with the objective of putting together an educational program that would be taken seriously by teachers looking for field trips. This committee put in a lot of work from the fall of 2000 until the show in September of 2001 to create a valid educational program where none existed previously.

Dealers: The other two critical functions (publicity and dealer contracts) were initiated as soon as the Board approved our budget. Dealer contracts went out in December. I’ve already described the changes in methodology for dealing with our dealers (no pun intended), and I was fully aware that many would simply not be listening to me or would not believe me when I told them of these changes. But our new venue gave me the perfect opportunity. The new plan consisted of the Show Committee deciding which dealers they wanted in the show and me sending contracts to those dealers. We would have a reserve list to choose from should dealers within the first group not accept our invitation. This first group had three months to accept. If they did not return a contract, they got a warning letter and another month to respond. If they did not respond, they would be eliminated from the dealer mix and a new dealer chosen to replace them.

Now, those of you who have been following my discourse in this series of historical articles will recognize that this was not normal practice during most of the 1990s. And you can bet that our dealers would also know this. However, I was serious, and a few dealers found this out when they returned their contracts sometime during the summer, months past the due date. Their contracts and checks were returned to them along with a letter explaining why they were being returned. Those dealers were then put on the reserve list. In all of this, I was counting on one major truth: Dealers all talk to each other and tend to know exactly what has happened to other dealers. My actions were intended to be a warning, and they definitely achieved the desired effect. Even though results of our first year at the HCC were not that good, dealers all knew that if they wanted to remain in the show, they needed to abide by the rules and help us make our show the best it could possibly be.

Publicity: Publicity issues were a major component of Show Committee meetings all through the year, including a few separate Publicity Committee meetings. This was the primary area in which John Moffitt concentrated his efforts. He led a revamped Publicity Committee that consisted of nine people, and he redesigned all of our show publicity materials. The color of all fliers was changed to canary yellow, and the motif was a bas-relief image of a T. rex skull that John “borrowed” from the Black Hills Institute (Figure 2). New to the mix was a business card for the show, similar to the club’s business card except that it too was canary yellow. For an extra dab of promotion, John had a bunch of refrigerator magnets made from the show business card design so that people wouldn’t forget when the show was.

Figure 3: 2001 Trilobite Postcard
Figure 3: 2001 Trilobite Postcard

Perhaps the greatest change was a redesigned postcard. Unlike the other printed fliers, the postcard was kept white with black print. John chose a drawing of a spiny trilobite as the picture on the front (Figure 3). Striking it definitely was, and draw attention it certainly did. Most people were complimentary; however, staunch hobby elements having little interest in paleo-related items registered the most disapproval. We didn’t endear ourselves with the faceting crowd, and the Houston Bead Society refused to send out any of the postcards delivered to them—they didn’t want anything to do with a fossil cockroach.

Figure 3: 2001 Trilobite Postcard
Figure 3: 2001 Trilobite Postcard

Major expenditures within the publicity budget were limited to the Houston Chronicle, totaling about $3,300. The total publicity expenditure was about $7,650, which generated some grumbling because we had been approved for $13,000 in publicity. The way John looked at it, we were way under budget, which was good.

In 2002, Publicity Chairman Jill Rowlands’ analysis of ticket stub data for the 2001 show found that friends, club members, local papers, fliers, and postcard mail outs had the best returns and were the most economical for their expense. The Chronicle Zest and radio advertising were dismal in their returns, and her recommendation was to scrap them.

Run-up to Show: As an extension of the publicity effort, the Show Committee planned several events designed to elicit participation among the club membership. The first was the postcard labeling event on August 19 where Jill Rowlands cooked spaghetti for the crowd of assembled club members who offered their label-sticking services. About 40 people attended and, as a result, the labeling only took an hour or so. The spaghetti was enjoyed by all.

The next event was the Pre-Show Pizza Party and Auction on September 8 hosted by our newest committee member, Hospitality Chairperson Paula Rutledge. Paula had joined just a week or two before. A good time was had by about 50 club members and family, and several hundred dollars was raised.

Paula wasted no time tackling our greatest unfilled need—that of Hospitality Chairperson. The HCC had no problem with us setting up a room to serve refreshments to our volunteers and vendors. So, Paula proceeded to do just that, and the results of her efforts earned her tremendous praise by anybody who set foot in her Hospitality room. Over 1000 sodas, 340 bottles of water, 30 dozen donuts, and uncounted pots of coffee were dispensed. In addition, the Rolling Rock meeting on Sunday morning and the KFC Survivor Dinner on Sunday evening at the clubhouse were the jurisdiction of the Hospitality Committee. Her contribution went a long way toward making our volunteers and vendors feel that they were appreciated.

And speaking of appreciation, another component of our new show was the Dealer and Volunteer Appreciation Dinner on Saturday night of the show. The event was hosted by the HGMS Board of Directors, who all hammed it up by dressing in cowboy attire and served a dinner of Luther’s BBQ. Paula had opened up all of the meeting rooms and had tables and chairs set up, which was fortunate because this dinner attracted somewhere around 130 people! In the start of what has become an annual tradition, George Blasing of Dino World gave the presentation. For those of you who have heard George talk, you know it was an entertaining time.

Postcript: Since it was our first year at the HCC, nobody expected us to have a stellar bottom line. It’s a known fact that changes in venue and date result in a confused customer base, many of whom are not likely to find the show or know the date. Attendance for the 2001 show was 2481, which includes 637 kids, teachers, and chaperones who came for the School Daze earth science program on Friday. We didn’t come close to making our ticket budget numbers, but Show Education Chairman Lexy Bieniek was certainly happy that we had a decent turnout of kids.

Profits from this show were actually quite good, but this is entirely because John’s stated goal was to come in as far below the expense budget as possible. This he did—expenses were budgeted to be $31,600 but were actually $25,514, thus leading to a profit of $14,972, $4,000 higher than budget. The Board certainly appreciated this, but the Show Committee was not happy about the lack of publicity.

In actuality, our epitaph for the 2001 show was written by another event completely out of our control—9/11. A mere two weeks before our show, probably the most defining moment in recent memory transformed the American public. In the weeks after this tragic event, it was not realistic to expect the public to be thinking about going out to a gem show to spend money. And those who did found themselves looking upward at the passing of each airliner on its landing approach to George Bush Intercontinental Airport.

But we did what we could with what we were given. Decorations Chairpersons Richard and Wanda Carter came up with the great idea of buying red, white, and blue ribbons and bunting material to wrap the tables with. We kept the normal white coverings with blue drape, but strung the patriotic bunting on the front of the tables. Richard and Wanda also had numerous patriotic bumper stickers and flags that were put everywhere they could. The Information Booth was completely decked out in patriotic symbols.

Many people told us they appreciated our efforts to show solidarity with those our country lost.

2002 – HCC Show #2: While on the one hand a vast majority of club members as well as the attending public were very enthusiastic about the new venue, make no mistake that there were a whole lot of bugs to work out. This was my number one goal as the 2002 Show Chairman. Assisting in this effort was new Publicity Chairman Jill Rowlands along with a Publicity Committee consisting of seven people, most holding over from 2001. Most of the Show Committee were veterans of the 2001 show.

The first task was for all committee heads to submit their reports, including expense numbers and recommendations for changes. We then tabulated these recommendations along with those received from other club members and our vendors.

Property: The laundry list was quite extensive. Our dealers were complimentary but not shy about letting us know how we could improve the show. High on their list were the tables and drapes. We had our property vendor go with 8-foot drapes behind each dealer booth, similar to trade shows, but our vendors were used to a more open floor plan where they could see across the entire show. Thus we killed the 8-foot drapes but kept the 8-foot piping from which the drapes had hung so we could hang dealer signs. We went with a 3-foot drape to separate the back-to-back dealer tables. The property vendor was another problem. He took a long time to set up on Thursday morning and didn’t have enough 8-foot tables to satisfy our demand. Without telling us, they completed our table order with 6-foot tables, making us look very bad to our vendors. Needless to say, the 2001 property vendor was axed, and a new one was selected for the 2002 show.

In addition, the table layout was changed to incorporate four wall booths, two on either side of the ballroom, five tables long. This eliminated one row of dealers and meant that we went from 44 dealers to 40 dealers. But this was necessary because our vendors were (rightly) insistent that we configure them with the required 10-foot deep booths.

A related subject was traffic flow. We noted in the 2001 show that most people went straight into the main ballroom (where the retail show was held) and rarely went out the side hallways where the case exhibits and entry to the special events room were. This room held the Youth Section and the Swap Area. We needed to direct people into the other parts of the show, so the idea was to make a large number of signs directing traffic to the different activities. Decorations Chairpersons Richard and Wanda Carter had them made using heavy poster board covered with plastic lamination. These signs have served us well through the years and are still in use.

Publicity: Also high on the list of complaints was that we did not have enough publicity about our new show. Several people gave recommendations on ways to diversify our publicity offerings. Publicity Chairman Jill Rowlands undertook a sustained campaign to get show announcements or PSAs (public service announcements) in a large number of print publications. Meanwhile, others on the committee were charged with community contacts, such as colleges, schools, businesses, and other related organizations such as HMNS and theHouston Geological Society. Yet another concept was to engage in outreach via other shows and conferences. This idea overlapped considerably with the Education Committee which was doing the same thing. Nonetheless, out of this concept came an organized participation in events such as the 4-time-per-year Intergem show, the Clear Lake G&MS show, the one and only occurrence of the Galveston G&MS show, the American Association of Petroleum Geologists conference (which was in the GRB in 2002), the bi-yearly MATS conference (our local science teachers organization), and two different home school conferences.

Figure 4: 2002 Information Booth. Notice the patriotic bunting from the 2001 show. From left to right are Harry and Shirley Dieckman, John Linder, and Elizabeth Sheehy. Woman to right is unidentified.

Printed publicity material was also reviewed by this committee. They decided that the pad fliers and business cards were good ideas and should be kept. Both were redesigned, with the bas-relief dino head being replaced by a photo image of Stan’s skull with the background blanked-out (Jill’s artwork). John Moffitt’s text-based pad front was replaced with the current design of information snippets.

The full page flier and postcard underwent major revision. Jill kept the white postcard idea from 2001 but redesigned the front so that it contained only text and the HGMS emblem. The only picture was on the back, and it was the Stan head that adorned our pad flier. We spent most of the year discussing the page flier. Initial designs were all rejected. Eventually, Elizabeth Sheehy elicited the support of her sister, Jennifer, who worked at a printing company. She used her art layout designer to construct the page flier that still survives today. It uses a picture of John Fischner’s T. rex model (with the background stripped away), the map of our show locality that resides on the back of our pad flier, and bulleted show information. Jennifer was even able to print it at her shop, in color, and using offset printing on high gloss paper. It was a truly outstanding flier, and the best part is that she was able to print batches of a few hundred at a time for free! (We otherwise would never have been able to afford that quality).

For the large expenditures, Jill advertised in the Chronicle Zest section (2″ x 4″ ads for $2,352), and the northern coverage area for the Observer Newspapers (3″ x 6″ ads for $2,270). In what was one of the greatest achievements of Jill’s tenure, she convinced the Observer to run a headliner article on ¾ of the front page of their Diversions section (for local happenings) on Wednesday, September 18. They ran a huge image of John Fischner’s T. rex model from our flier and a picture of John Moffitt sticking his head in Stan’s jaws (from the 2001 show). This single article was worth its weight in gold and resulted in the “local paper” category ranking 4th in the list of primary reasons people attended the show (behind friends, word of mouth, and the postcard).

Against her better instincts, the Publicity Committee also convinced Jill to spend $2,000 on radio advertising with Paul Wishnow’s Sunday morning radio program on KPRC (the “Antique Show”). Paul had been around our show for a few years and had even broadcast outside our show once at the GRB. He had approached us with an offer to do an entire package of paid advertising for the weeks leading up to the show, as well as a guest appearance on his show the week prior to our show. I was chosen as the person to do the live broadcast. Jill prepped me with an appropriate list of questions that we turned over to Paul as a go-by list. He had several spots for me during the program and even invited people to call in with questions. Our interaction went well, and I dutifully recited the necessary interesting facts about our show, but it didn’t seem to me that his Sunday morning audience of antique aficionados was too interested in our club or show or rockhounding in general. When the ticket stub data was tabulated, a total of 20 people said they came because of radio advertising. This didn’t turn out to be the best usage of our publicity funds, so needless to say, it wasn’t repeated.

Dealers: Even though the 2001 show was not well attended, the Show Committee rigorously adhered to its philosophy on dealers. Before sending out any contracts, the 2002 Show Committee reviewed the list of current dealers and the list of dealers on our waiting list (including those who missed the 2001 show). Our first task was to change the dealer mix. There were too many jewelry dealers, a fact that was driven home by the overwhelming concentration of dissatisfied dealers being those who dealt primarily in jewelry. We thus decided not to invite five of them back (although it must be noted that several of them probably weren’t coming back anyway). We chose five mineral and fossil dealers to replace them and sent out contracts. We then agreed on the top dealers in the waiting list, so that these dealers could have contracts sent to them as soon as the waiting period passed for the first group of dealers.

Education: This committee matured significantly in 2002. We tabulated the results and recommendations of the first year and tried to overcome the difficulties we faced in developing a program that would be taken seriously by the education community. The maturing of the HGMS Web site (more on that below) allowed us to move the registration online, and our flier and postcard were altered to announce this fact. We continued attending education conferences, passing out fliers, and signing up teachers who were interested in our program.

We held meetings in the fall of 2001 and in 2002 to work out the details of this growing program. One of the things we promoted was Art Smith’s School Sets (described below). We took photos of the rock sets and created a registration flier which included these photos. This flier was sent to the teachers in our database.

Another activity we promoted was the Dino Dig. This was the brainchild of Show Education Chairperson Lexy Bieniek, who had used it in other education activities. The idea was to encase various fossils or plastic dinosaurs in a concrete/sand mix and let the kids chip these items out. Over the years, we’ve tinkered with the concrete mix (mostly to soften it up) and the items to put into the mix (we found that Cretaceous carbonate fossils just break up rather than extract cleanly from the mix, so we now use plastic dinos exclusively). But the fact remains that this activity has become one of the mainstays of our youth activities. Anybody who has gone out to the Dino Dig when kids are working can attest to the enthusiasm these kids exhibit when given the opportunity to do some real “excavation.”

The Dino Dig was actually used in 2001 on a small scale. We didn’t envision it being a large draw, so it was put in the wide hallway between the retail show and the Hospitality room on the west side of the HCC. But it turned out to be a big success, and the constant whacking of chisel against concrete sent the Hospitality folks up the wall. So in 2002 we moved it to the east hallway between the retail show and the special events room that held the Youth Section booth and the Swap Area. While this was more successful than having it in the east hallway, it nonetheless continued growing in size so we had to make yet another change of location in 2003.

The “Rock Set” Issue: In the early years of the School Daze program, we realized that we needed attractions that would entice teachers to come with their classes because it was well known that school funding was continually being cut. The scavenger hunts were the centerpiece of the program, and we actively promoted them as fulfilling TEKS requirements. In the end I think this is what has made the program a success, but in 2001 and 2002 we felt we needed every enticement possible to get teachers to come to the show on Friday. I went out and purchased a large number of polished carnelian pebbles to be used as giveaways to each kid attending the program. In addition, we promoted Art Smith’s School Sets as being available to teachers who brought their classes. This actually proved to be quite a draw because teachers do not normally have such a resource available to them.

But it turned out that the devil was in the details. We had first discussed this idea with Art in early 2000 and were told of the different kinds of sets that were available and the rules for their use (that they needed to be signed out by teachers). The program as originally constructed envisioned a club member going out to give a talk in a classroom and then leaving a rock set behind. But that was no longer happening very much because this relied on retired club members who had an interest in this area, and those kinds of people were always in short supply. So we offered to be an outlet for these sets because they really didn’t have much exposure to the outside world. This was fine only to a limited degree because Art alone produced these sets.

We had already started off on the wrong foot by giving out 13 sets to teachers in our 2001 School Daze program and not getting the required teacher sign-out forms completed. These forms are the primary evidence Art has to demonstrate to Conoco that their grant is being used for the purposes for which it was intended. So we corrected that problem in 2002 but used between 20–30 sets at the show (due to the increased traffic of teachers and students). Combined with that, Show Education Committee Chairman Lexy Bieniek was also promoting these sets when she gave workshops to science teachers. The combined effect produced a substantial increase in demand for these sets that was beyond Art’s ability to produce. Thus, we stripped his shelves bare in the fall of 2002, at which point he wisely proclaimed that either the Show Education Committee had to quit using them all up, or he would quit making the sets.

A solution to the problem was worked out in 2003 which consisted of making a separate, smaller set for the show, while continuing to make the normal sets for teachers coming by the club to sign them out. In hindsight, this was a very wise decision because the School Daze program has continued to grow, and our demand for sets has risen accordingly. And in reality, the teachers attending our School Daze program tend not to need the sophisticated sets that Art was making anyway. They just need a simple collection that they can take back and use to further teach their students about rocks and minerals.

Scout Geology Merit Badge Program: Several members of the 2002 Show Education Committee also had some experience with Scout programs (Lexy Bieniek, Ephriam Dickson, and Joan Riley). At the kick-off Show Education Committee organizing meeting in the fall of 2001, the idea was broached to have a Scout Merit Badge program on the weekend to compliment the School Daze program on Friday. The Committee was very enthusiastic about this idea. Thus Ephriam moved to the new Scout Committee, and we elicited the support of David Temple, who worked with Ephriam at the HMNS, Mike Bieniek, who ran the Scout store at Camp Strake in Conroe, and Mike Reves, who ran the Scout program at the Clear Lake G&MS show.

This panel of experts formulated a program that was put into effect for the 2002 show. We decided to pattern the program after the Weeblos requirements, since they were less rigorous than those of the Boy Scouts but nonetheless would satisfy all Scout types while providing partial fulfillment of the Boy Scout requirements. It consisted of nine stations with the committee running three stations and the remaining six being spread throughout the remainder of the show. The three stations we taught were (1) general geology, including rock types, (2) weathering and erosion, and (3) earth processes, including earthquakes and volcanoes.

From its very start this has been a popular program. Despite our initial worries, we have never had any problems eliciting registrants to take the program. Our panel of experts recommended appropriate publicity outlets including the Boy Scout Scouter magazine and the Girl Scout Golden Link magazine. Ephriam and David created a full-page flier that we printed off by the hundreds to put in Scout shops and distributed at Scout events and meetings. As a result, in 2002 we had over 300 Scouts go through the program. Through the years this number has steadily grown as the program went through the maturing process that the School Daze program was already going through.

Volunteer Coordination: This was an excellent idea whose origin is entirely attributable to Jill Rowlands. As the show grew in sophistication, it was apparent that our volunteer needs were also growing. In the past, there apparently was no efficient or organized method to get volunteers for the show. (I’m sure there was one in the past, but this knowledge and methodology had since passed away by the time I came on the scene). We could no longer afford to let this happen because we had too many staffing needs. So Jill proposed a new Show Committee position called Volunteer Coordination and served as its first chairperson.

The task of this committee was first to tabulate the volunteer needs of the various show functions and then to go out and fill those needs. The methods used were the traditional ones that relied on volunteer sign-ups at club functions, but also on an active phone calling campaign since it’s well known that typically only the same few people will willingly volunteer to write their names down on a list that’s passed around each year.

While it is true that the first year of anything is usually far from flawless, and this was certainly true here, this new position was instrumental in getting volunteers for places where we had lots of difficulty in the past. It was obvious that we not only needed to keep this as a regular committee on the Show Committee, but we also needed to expand it.

Web site: The Show Committee first started making use of our Web site during the 2001 show, but by 2002 we had a new webmaster (Jeanean Slamen) who significantly expanded the Web site and gave it most of its current functionality. By that time I was already pushing to have an active Show presence on our site and worked closely with Jeanean to make that a reality. I wrote much of the text, and Jeanean assembled it into a pleasing but informative Web page.

Having a capable webmaster such as Jeanean meant that we could start to think about utilizing the Web to its fullest capability, and thus create an additional source of publicity about our club, its activities, and about the show. We started listing the Web site on all of our show publicity and referring to it for further information. From this point onward, the Web site started being THE place for the public to go in order to find show information.

In addition, the Show Education Committee moved the registration forms for the School Daze program onto the new Education Page and rapidly expanded it under the philosophy that our club was an educational organization and had a lot of resources to share with the community. The idea was to create a Web-based earth science resource for teachers or interested individuals. This enhancement to our Web site went a long way toward convincing the general public that the show’s educational programs were to be taken seriously.

It’s Showtime: As was becoming custom, the first event of the show run-up was the postcard labeling event on August 18, where about 50 people made quick work of the piles of labels that Grand Label Master Beverly Mace had carefully laid out. For the second year in a row, they were then treated to a scrumptious spaghetti dish made by Jill Rowlands. Following that was the customary Pre-Show Pizza Party on September 7, attended by about 50 people.

New for 2002 was the venue for the September General Meeting. David Temple pushed through the idea to have this meeting at the HCC on the Thursday night of the show, which was two days after it would normally have been held. It was combined with the annual Dealer and Volunteer Appreciation Dinner and George Blasing’s customary presentation. Reviews were mixed about the success of this idea. Many contended that it was an invigorating change for the meeting and was even accompanied by a dinner. Others said it was too far to go for an evening meeting (the regular attendees to the General Meeting apparently all come from the southeast side of town).

The show itself was considered a rousing success by all involved. Attendance jumped by a factor of two from the previous year to 5,485. Paid ticket attendees were about 2,400, thus allowing us to almost exactly match our budgeted ticket income of $10,000. Making up the bulk of the unpaid remainder were kids who attended the School Daze program, totaling 2,387, a whopping increase from the year previous (667). Obviously, our message got out to the educational community, and we were being taken seriously. As an added benefit, our efforts to reach the home school community paid off with 668 attending, mostly on Friday afternoon. This is not an insignificant feat—Friday afternoon is traditionally one of the deadest periods in a show, and we were able to fill it up with a constant stream of home schooled families, much to the delight of our dealers.

Profits for this show were $12,222 on expenses of $26,113, or a profit margin of 47%. Also good news was the fact that the customer-to-dealer ratio was above 100 (actually 141) for the first time since 1990, and the 5,485 attendees was the highest since 1991.

Thus, this year marked the official rise of the show out of the doldrums of the 1990s and heralded the start of a new era.

2003: With the transition-year 2002 show behind us and with a stable and increasingly experienced Show Committee at the helm, transition to the 2003 show year was seamless and immediate. The Show Committee schedule developed during 2002 was followed in 2003 and would be for the foreseeable future. This schedule was laid out as follows:

October – 2002 Show Committee meets for the last time. Recommendations and expense summary for all subcommittees presented. Committee officially dismissed at the conclusion of the meeting.

November – 2003 Show Committee meets for the first time. Budget requests are presented for each subcommittee. Recommendations from the previous meeting were tallied and presented in summary form at this meeting for review.

December – Budget presented to Board for approval. The Show Committee then meets and two committees become active immediately: Publicity and Dealers.

The Publicity Committee uses this meeting and the next two meetings to make any changes needed to the fliers and to get them printed. The target date for printed publicity is the end of February for the Clear Lake show. Following that are the spring and summer Intergems, two home school conferences, the spring MATS conference, and any regional spring shows (such as Corpus Christi and San Antonio).

Other local shows are attended as they come up. For instance, in 2003 the Show Committee in conjunction with HMNS had a table at the Boy Scout Exposition at Reliant Center. This was a very successful event and generated a ton of positive publicity for our club, our show, and our Scout program.

In December the Show Committee reviews existing dealers and decides if any dealer warrants not being invited back to the show. Once this is determined, the initial list of invited dealers is finalized. The Dealer Committee makes any necessary changes to the existing dealer contracts and then prints them. Contracts are mailed by late December or early January. Dealers have until the end of April to return their contracts with a minimum deposit of 50%. Dealers paying 100% receive a 5% discount on their booth fee. Dealers not returning contracts by the beginning of May receive a warning letter and a month grace period. In early June, any remaining space on the retail floor is opened up to the waiting list and contracts are sent out.

There were a few notable changes for the 2003 show. As discussed above in the 2002 show, the problems with the Show Committee’s use of Art’s School Sets were resolved by making a new set of kits specifically for the show. These sets were smaller and used smaller, less expensive pieces. They were assembled in plastic containers similar to small fishing tackle boxes. A committee was formed in the fall of 2002 specifically to handle the creation of these sets. This committee first decided on the physical characteristics of the sets (as described above) then on the types of sets we would make. We decided to make four sets: Quartz Varieties, the Rock Cycle, Magic School Bus, and Neal’s Fossil Field Trip in a Box (Whiskey Bridge material). The sets were specifically designed so that each had complete information on the specimens as well as follow-up questions for lessons. We decided that fifteen sets of each would handle the anticipated demand. These sets were completed in July.

Also new for 2003 was a Fossil Painting booth headed by Mark Randall of Dallas. We put him in the widened section of the east hallway (near the Dino Dig and the entrance to the Youth Section booth). His booth was tremendously successful and was packed most of the time. Unfortunately, I don’t think Mark fully anticipated the number of kids we see at our show, and consequently spent most of the time in a dazed state. I don’t think he went back home with much material. He also didn’t come back in 2004.

A major change in printed show material was instituted by the Publicity Committee. The committee was looking for another blockbuster promotion to go along with the wonderful page flier and had not been satisfied with the postcards the last two years. So the idea was brought up to have a full color postcard. Rates had been steadily dropping for full color offset printing, and coincidentally, an out-of-town printer had already been found that could do the printing affordably.

So Publicity Chairman Jill Rowlands got together some faceted Brazilian topaz (Texas star cut), and Steve Blyskal obtained some Brazilian and Pakistani topaz crystals. The photography was done very professionally by Steve Blyskal, and the text was inserted by Jill (Figure 6). There were, of course, logistical snafus that kept it from being a perfect operation, but the fact that it was even done at all is remarkable and is a tribute to the 2003 Publicity Committee for pulling it off. The postcard was roundly complimented by all as a major advancement in the appeal and professionalism of the HGMS Show and of the club. It was agreed by all that this needed to be an annual undertaking by the Show Committee.

Associated with this, Publicity Committee members Elizabeth Sheehy and Joan Riley decided we needed a concise packet of publicity materials that could be delivered to various print, radio, and TV outlets. They took it upon themselves to produce such a packet and deliver it to as many media outlets as possible. This was a wonderful idea that had been used in one form or another for decades but had been lacking in the recent past. Its success was hard to evaluate because it’s difficult to check each media outlet to see if they used the materials. However, intuitively it was such an obvious, basic method of generating public awareness of our show that this idea was kept and used in subsequent years.

Another significant advancement was in the volunteer coordination area. Jill had given up that position to concentrate on publicity, and Cheryl Lucas stepped up to take it. Cheryl had previous experience with event coordination and so was a natural for the job. She developed a spreadsheet listing all of the volunteer areas and indicating how many volunteers were needed for what shifts. Then once the show began approaching, she dutifully began calling everyone on a version of the HGMS roster that Beverly Mace had already pared down to leave only potential volunteers. In concert with this effort, the Show Committee as a whole utilized the BBG during the entire year to keep the show in the forefront of the membership’s consciousness. In the lead-up months of August and September (and even October since that issue came out prior to the show in late September), the BBG was literally filled with articles from various members of the Show Committee.

The result of this devotion by Cheryl and the concerted effort by the Show Committee was nothing short of remarkable. Virtually all of the volunteer slots in the show were filled, although some didn’t get filled until at the show when volunteers walked up to the Information Booth to register. Cheryl tallied 10 different areas needing volunteer help, not including the Section booths, and 120 volunteers who helped in those different areas.
Associated with this volunteer effort was an idea of mine to ride this wave of volunteerism by trying to expand the Show Committee beyond the normal list of suspects. Another committee was formed early in the show year whose mission was to call our club membership to ask if they would be willing to help the Show Committee plan our next show. Out of this effort came a lot of dead ends and people who ended up helping at the show only, but it also turned up several people who are still involved with the Show Committee.

Showtime – the 2003 Show: As was becoming custom, the Postcard Labeling Event and the Pre-Show Pizza Party led the way to the show build-up. The Pre-Show Pizza Party was particularly remarkable this year because of a donation by long-time member Virginia Royce. This material was auctioned off at the Pizza Party along with other material brought to the auction, and it ended up generating $726 in gross revenue from about 60 attendees.

The next noteworthy event was the Dealer and Volunteer Appreciation Dinner, which was held on Friday night this year. The theme was dictated by our speaker, George Blasing, who talked about the T. rex and how recent discoveries had shed light on the possibility it was a nurturing animal that had family units and sheltered its young. Of course, the Show Committee couldn’t resist but to have a dinner of BBQ to celebrate our carnivorous tendencies, which ended up feeding about 90 people.

The show was its usual successful self. I use the personal connotation because at times it seemed to have a life of its own. Friday saw 2425 kids, about 600 of whom were home school kids who came in the afternoon. Nonetheless, that meant about 1800 kids and about 340 chaperones completely filled the HCC during the morning hours.

In addition to the School Daze attendees, 3286 people came in through the front door. Of these, 2465 were paying attendees, which meant we met our budgeted ticket income ($10,578 actual versus $10,000 budget). There were 744 kids under the age of 12 who attended the show separately from the School Daze program. Of these, 338 were Scouts of all flavors who participated in the Scout Geology Merit Badge program accompanied by 150 (paying) adults.

This program was hugely successful. The Scout registrar (Ephriam Dickson of the HMNS) halted registrations in early September because all slots were filled. We then agreed to increase the maximum number of Scouts per session from 35 to 45 and filled the registrations again within a week. In the end, Ephriam turned away almost as many Scouts as we registered. This, in itself, caused its own problems as we realized that this program had reached maturity and that we desperately needed additional Scout counselors to teach the three stations for which the HGMS was responsible. This would be the prime focus of the Scout Committee in the next few years.

The financial results of this show were similarly impressive. Expenses were very close to the budget of $26,000, but we did manage to shave $1,500 off of this amount. Income was higher than budget due to two dealers who didn’t show and were replaced by new dealers, and by the great pre-show auction. This led to a net profit of $16,043, or a margin of 65%. The customer-to-dealer ratio was a very healthy 151.

2004 – The SCFMS Show: The Show Committee smoothly transitioned into the 2004 show year with the submission of expenditures and recommendations in October. When the 2004 Show Committee met for the first time in November, the primary personnel changes were Elizabeth Sheehy taking over for Jill Rowlands as the Publicity Chairman and Greg Rutledge taking over for his wife, Paula Rutledge, as Hospitality Chairman. I also insisted in getting some help with the leadership of the Show Committee, so President Norm Lenz convened a nominating committee to find an Assistant Show Chairman. In March 2004 Carol Thompson (who had been Ticket Chairman since 2001) accepted this position. In addition, Lowell Stouder volunteered to take the position of Dealer Chairman which I had held continuously since 1999.

With all other aspects of the show effort smoothly flowing along according to the schedule perfected in previous years, the main issue of interest was preparations for holding a regional federation show. Shiara Trumble graciously accepted the position of SCFMS Liaison and began putting together a plan of action. We obtained the comprehensive convention planning guide written by 2003 SCFMS President Keith Harmon and amended by Dick Rathjen of the Clear Lake G&MS who held the SCFMS show in 2003. The only thing left to do was follow the instructions.

So, Shiara set out to find a host hotel (the Holiday Inn Express), Editor’s Breakfast location (a Denny’s about two miles from the show), and a daytime meeting location (the Octavia Fields Public Library meeting room, which was adjacent to the HCC). The nighttime meeting location would be the HCC Hospitality room. She then put together the required registration forms and meeting announcements from the documents supplied by Dick Rathjen and sent the whole batch to Paul Good, the Editor of the SCFMS Newsletter. At the same time, all documents were loaded onto the Web site for access and downloading by any interested parties. They were also mailed to all clubs in the SCFMS as well as to AFMS officers.

Publicity: With the advent of a new Publicity Chairman, changes were afoot for that committee. Elizabeth was the type of person who wanted things documented, and so she created a spreadsheet listing all of the media outlets we were pursuing along with details of the contact, who was in charge of pursuing it, and its status. The Publicity Committee met separately from the Show Committee at least once every other month for the duration of the show year since in reality publicity is a year-round activity. Printed fliers had to be ready by the Clear Lake show, some magazines had 6-month lead times, others had 2- or 3-month lead times, and by summer talk of radio, TV, and print media became quite serious. The show postcard was again capably photographed by Steve Blyskal (Figure 9).

This aggressive and organized approach can’t help but pay big dividends. For print media, we got PSAs and paid ads in the Houston Chronicle Weekend Preview, Houston Community Newspapers (half-page ad in the northern and western suburbs), Texas Journey Magazine, Southwest/Village News, HMNS Dashing Diplodocus, Houston Geological Society Bulletin (plus articles!), Geophysical Society of Houston Bulletin, Greensheet in 1960/Humble area, The Teaching Pioneer (a home school bulletin), the Boy Scout Scouter, the Girl Scout Golden Link, and probably others I haven’t mentioned.

Radio and TV were saturated with PSA information, and we got mentions on a variety of shows. The ultimate was 90.1 KPFT, which ran promos for the HGMS for a solid week prior to the show and gave away 120 complimentary tickets. All who heard these spots were very impressed and appreciative of KPFT for doing this. I don’t think we paid them anything for their efforts, although we certainly should have.

Another publicity coup that was entirely Elizabeth’s idea was to run a trailer at the bottom of the screen on the local forecast of the Weather Channel during the four weeks prior to the show. I might add that late August to late September is prime hurricane season and the time when everybody is checking the weather. The results of this advertising were astounding. We heard from a large number of people (including HGMS club members) that said they saw this trailer.

As part of the effort to focus publicity coverage in regional media, Shiara Trumble tallied the 2003 grand door prize entry form zip codes to find out where people lived. The results were quite revealing. Heavy concentrations came from the northern suburbs of Humble, Kingwood, Spring, Woodlands, and Conroe, and the western suburbs of Cypress and Katy. There was also a heavy concentration all along the west side “energy corridor” stretching from downtown all the way to Katy, from I-45 southward to Hwy 90 (South Main). Isolated enclaves existed on the southeastern side (Pasadena, NASA, etc.). Strangely absent were the inner city areas in north, east, and south Houston. This told us very quickly that people coming to our show had disposable income to spend and that this was probably the greatest single factor determining their presence in our show. Publicity coverage was henceforth targeted to these areas.

Changes in the Show: One decision that the 2004 Show Committee made was to create a huge banner that would advertise the show from the exterior of the HCC. Rick Sheehy headed up this effort and presented possible designs to the Show Committee for approval as well as contacting various printing companies to investigate materials and cost. Eventually a design was approved that had “GEM, JEWELRY, MINERAL, & FOSSIL SHOW” written across the top, “Houston Gem & Mineral Society” in the lower left side, and “www.hgms.org” in the lower right side. The printing was done in black lettering on a white waterproof mesh material, and the size was a considerable 5′ x 30′. The cost was not cheap and ended up being about $950. But this sign quickly proved its value when we realized you could see it from any road in the vicinity of the HCC.

Adding to the change in the front of the HCC was the addition of two huge petrified logs. One of them was owned by Gary Anderson and was permanently housed on top of a wagon with a sand bed to rest on. It was a Petrified National Forest piece, and so the colors were excellent. The other was owned by Paul McGarry, who picked it up (with the help of a front-end loader) on a Show Committee field trip to a ranch in Giddings where he keeps his horses. Paul had constructed a metal cart that permanently holds this piece (Figure 10). Each of these pieces was probably ½ to ¾ ton in weight. These pieces proved to be huge attractions, with show attendees posing in front of them to have their pictures taken.

Another change was the decision to move the Dino Dig outside in a tent. We had been discussing having tents for several years but had not yet done it. The Dino Dig was rapidly becoming the star kid attraction in our show and needed room to grow, which it definitely didn’t have in the east hallway. So we rented a 20′ x 20′ tent and put it outside the northeast corner of the building, adjacent to the east hallway and the special events room that held the Youth Section booth and the Swap Area. This proved to be one of the best decisions we could possibly make, as it gave them plenty of room to grow and isolated the show from the constant noise of kids whacking chunks of concrete (Figure 11).

Moving into the vacated east hallway was the HMNS, who also needed to expand. And since they were another of our demonstrators who were a hit with the kids, we felt this was a good place for them to expand into. Their old location was taken by the Houston Geological Society and the BEG Core Repository, who had displays showing petroleum exploration and production and professional options in Earth Science that middle and high school kids could be thinking about.

The Show: The show officially began on Thursday night when the club voted to have the General Meeting again at the HCC in conjunction with the Dealer and Volunteer Appreciation Dinner. The Paleo Section also decided to get into the action and do likewise. The entertainment for the evening was, as usual, Dino George Blasing who gave us a presentation on the making of his new video, which was going to be shown in his booth during the show. As usual, he gave his presentation to a full house in the Hospitality room.

Next on the hit list was Friday morning, when hordes of school kids descended on the show. A total of 2,694 kids and 933 adults entered through the west door on Friday. It was certainly enough to make your head swim. However, in all good things can be found some bad. Evaluations we received from teachers leaving the show were heavily weighted with complaints of overcrowding. This was also obvious to all those trying to run the show on Friday. Thus, this year proved to be a turning point for the School Daze program—from here on out, we would do something we never dreamed we would have to do—limit access to our show. Educators abhor this thought; it’s the prime driver for the national “No Child Left Behind” law that states all kids have to be given a fair and equitable opportunity to learn. But now we would be forced to tell some schools that they cannot come to our show because our time slots have already filled up.

Another program reaching the same threshold was the Scout Geology Merit Badge program. For the second year in a row, registrations filled by early September, and we were forced to turn away as many Scouts as we registered. A total of 523 Scouts and about 200 adults participated in this program. However, the same problem happened here as with the School Daze program—too many Scouts for the instructors to handle. It was finally obvious that we needed to recruit additional Scout councilors to help with the three stations we were to teach. This would be the first order of business in 2005.

Those who survived Friday’s onslaught were treated to an outstanding show. Volunteer Coordinator Cheryl Lucas counted 130 volunteers that signed up to help run the show. (This number represents about 33% of the club—much greater than the typical 5-10% that normally do everything in a volunteer organization). Attendance was phenomenal. On Saturday alone, 2,700 people attended. Sunday was not far behind with 1,797. Total attendance was 5,066 through the front door and 3,627 through the east door (School Daze), for a total of 8,693. Paid attendance was 3,728, meaning that we completely overshot our budgeted ticket income. Profits were $13,553, or a profit margin over expenses of 43%. This number was lower than the previous year due to some extra expenses (about $1,000) we agreed to undertake with regard to SCFMS activities plus the unanticipated expense of having to pay for competition judges (this little fact was somehow left out of the instruction documents we received from Keith Harmon and Dick Rathjen). Add to this the extra-budgetary expense of making the show banner ($950).

However, as an added benefit, our show attracted the attention of an outfit in Dallas called GeoAmerica that produces an educational TV series called North Texas Explorer. They had decided to shoot a film on the rockhound hobby and chose our show as a segment of the film. They came down on Saturday and shot the entire day, capturing the Scout program, Dino George (who also had another segment in the film), the Dino Dig, Karen Burns doing some lapidary demo, an interview with Bill Patillo of the Rock Food Table, and yours truly talking about our wonderful show.

Not a bad way to finish off a stellar Federation show. You can bet we caught the attention of the national Federation. In fact, we earned a very honorable review in the AFMS Newsletter that came out following the show. Not a bad effort for a day’s work (or three in this case).

2005: So how do you follow a show like the 2004 SCFMS show? Well, to start with, to ask such a question implies that the questioner feels the 2004 was something extraordinary or one-of-a-kind. Examples are the famous 1971 show which set an attendance record (11,000) that hasn’t been matched in 35 years, or our first AFMS show in 1982 which set the record for number of dealers (109) and holds the #2 spot for attendance (10,278).

No, the fact is that the Show Committee recognized this was a fantastic show but certainly not extraordinary or non-repeatable. In fact, they felt we had just begun to scratch the surface. There was still plenty of room for growth of attendance and size, even if we had to move outside of the HCC proper, which is exactly what the Show Committee set about to do.

First on the hit list was growth in size. To achieve this, the Show Committee expanded the Dino Dig from a 20′ x 20′ tent to a 20′ x 30′ tent and increased the number of wooden flat holders from two to three, thus increasing the number of kids we could have digging by 50%. A second tent was added outside the east door (between the exit door and the Youth Section booth in the special events room). This tent was to be filled with George Blasing’s Dino World Traveling Museum.

Since we were sharing the cost of bringing this museum with George, Show Chairperson Carol Thompson and Publicity Chairperson Elizabeth Sheehy wanted to make sure it carried its own weight (in other words, created an increase in attendance that matched its cost). To do so, the Publicity Committee began a major publicity push that emphasized the presence of George’s museum at our show. We hoped to get at least one print media reporter at the show who would write a feature article appearing during the show. We also were negotiating for a morning show on one of the major network stations to do a segment of their show at our show. All other paid and PSA ads were amended to emphasize or at least mention George’s museum. Another “collector’s edition” postcard was produced by Steve Blyskal and the Publicity Committee (Figure 12).

Changes to the floor plan layout were also in the works. To begin with, we recognized that we had now reached the threshold where we had to open up hallway space to allow crowds of people to move through without creating bottlenecks. Thus, the Houston Geological Society and BEG Core Repository would share booth space with the HMNS in the widened portion of the east hallway, thus freeing up the eastern portion of the front hallway. Concurrently, the western portion of the front hallway was opened up by combining our flint knapper with Cheryl Lucas’ PMC demo booth.

Changes were also in store for the center of the front hallway, which is the main show entrance. Dino George was adding a Stegosaurus skull to be faced off with Stan in the semblance of a showdown (Stegosaurus was a primary food of the T. rex). In addition, George had a Pteranodon that was suspended on a metal T-frame. We had the brilliant idea that we could suspend this skeleton from the ceiling of the entry way. The HCC management bought onto our idea, which was a necessity because two wires had to be strung from the back to the front of the entry way to allow the Pteranodon to be hung. We felt these changes would create an incredible presence that was sure to impress anyone visiting our show.

Our educational programs were also changed in recognition of the fact that they had reached maturity and needed to be managed better. Attendance limits were placed on the School Daze Earth Science program on Friday in an effort to prevent the overcrowding that prevailed in the 2004 show. We hoped that this would enable those kids who did participate a greater chance to absorb the earth science lesson we had prepared for them.

In addition, Mad Science would also assist in our School Daze program. We had negotiated a deal whereby Mad Science would take over the chemistry station in the west hallway. They would bring two “mad scientists” who would conduct continual experiments throughout the morning hours and in the afternoon until the home schoolers tapered off. We felt this was a major enhancement to this program because of the professionalism and reputation of Mad Science.

Similar changes were underway for the Scout Geology Merit Badge program as well. I undertook a major information gathering effort to find out how to get Boy Scout participation in this program (since we were really doing their job for them). We found out that each Scout district has its own advancement coordinator and that we would have to contact each one individually to elicit their support. We did this for the four districts in north Houston, and managed to accumulate a considerable list of potential Scout Geology counselors. These people were all called, and I managed to get about a half dozen who agreed to help teach the program in addition to those who were already teaching it (and being overwhelmed). This represented a major step forward in the maturity of this program and was the first time it had received official recognition from Scout leaders. From here on out, we would be looking to increase the quality of the program, and once that was assured, increase the size of the program so we could accommodate some of the hundreds of additional Scouts whom we routinely turn away each year.

Run-up: The pre-show season in 2005 contained the usual assortment of activities, including the postcard labeling event on August 13. The Pre-Show Pizza Party was held on September 10. About 130 auction items and flats of cutting material were bid on by 45–50 people who munched down 15 pizzas and desserts and generated $689 in revenue.

On Sunday, September 18, the start of the week of the show, a tropical depression formed north of Haiti, tracking west-northwest. It rapidly strengthened to a tropical storm, and as it approached the Florida Straits on September 20, to a Category 1 hurricane. It was named Rita. The forecast track brought it onto the Texas coast the following weekend (Figure 13), which immediately got everybody’s attention. After crossing the Florida Straits, Hurricane Rita passed over some very warm water and strengthened from a Category 1 to a Category 5 hurricane in a day and a half, so that by Thursday, September 22, it had maximum winds of 180 mph (Figure 14).

After passing the Florida Straits, the forecast track had initially pointed it toward Corpus Christi, but quickly veered northward until the forecast track on September 22 had it passing directly over Houston. Mandatory evacuation orders were issued for all low-lying areas along the coast and along Galveston Bay. This set off mad panic among the several million people in the Houston-Galveston metropolitan area, most of whom had been glued to their TVs when Category 5 Hurricane Katrina flattened New Orleans at the end of August, breaking their levee system in three places and flooding a substantial portion of the city. Images of people being rescued by boat and helicopter from their rooftops permeated the collective consciousness of our city.

By Thursday all freeways leading inland from the coast were jam-packed and going nowhere. People simply ran out of gas and were stuck where they sat with no food or water in record heat. Those who did get through the mess told stories of taking 36 hours to get to Austin or Dallas. Houston, which was not in the mandatory evacuation zone, was a ghost town by Friday when Rita was nearing the coast (Figure 15). But by then the track had continued veering eastward and it ended up running directly over Sabine and Beaumont. Entire sections of west Louisiana and east Texas were destroyed; the piney woods were in shambles with entire groves of pine trees uprooted or snapped like toothpicks. The coastal Louisiana town of Cameron virtually ceased to exist.

Run-over: In an environment like this, it was obvious that our show was a “goner.” The Show Committee followed Rita’s progress through the early part of the week and hoped it would turn somewhere else. But by Wednesday it was obvious it wasn’t turning somewhere else. Even if it did, people were evacuating and schools were being cancelled. Many workplaces were closed Thursday and Friday.

I kept in close contact with the HCC and with our property vendor all week long. Other people associated with the show were calling and e-mailing Show Chairman Carol Thompson and me. She was being deluged with calls from club members and dealers alike wondering what we were going to do. Monday and Tuesday we had hope. By Wednesday we had lost hope and decided to shut it down because we could not afford to wait any longer. Carol discussed the issue with President Norm Lenz and they came to the same agreement.

Norm wrote a letter stating our decision and our reasons and had webmaster Phyllis George post it on the home page of our Web site immediately. I wrote a similar letter and sent it out to all of our dealers in a mass e-mail (Dealer Chairman Lowell Stouder was in Germany at the time) and followed this up with calls to each one of them, (However, many of them were already on the road and had to contact us any way they could.) Carol informed the remainder of the Show Committee. Volunteer Co-Chairman Shiara Trumble called all of her volunteers to inform them of the news. Security Chairman Matt Dillon cancelled the security and first aid contract. I called all of the Scout Committee and our volunteer counselors. Ditto with our public/private school registrar Greenevelyn Hawkins and our home school co-registrars Tina Hendryx and Melissa Steck. They had the unenviable job of informing the contact people for 2,500 students who were registered to attend our School Daze program. This massive calling campaign lasted through Wednesday and Thursday.

Epitaph: Because of our good relationship with our various vendors, the fallout was much less than it might have been. The HCC and I worked through a plan of action over the course of the entire week, sometimes with multiple calls each day. We agreed to invoke the “force majeure” clause in the HCC contract. This meant that the contract was null and void due to an act of God and that neither party would consider the other as having any obligation whatsoever. (The HCC ended up being a command center for hurricane emergency personnel and a refuge for some of those stuck on the freeway). Our property vendor, Events Plus, was also continually apprised of our plans and agreed to do likewise. This meant that all of our facility expenses had been cancelled, totaling $15,050. Of the remaining expenses, publicity and education had already been spent. Hospitality expenses had mostly not been spent. The tally was that $11,261 out of a budget of $13,950 was spent, most coming from publicity ($9,079).

The Board met on October 4 to consider what should be done next. The meeting was attended by about 20 people. It was unanimously decided to refund all dealer fees ($18,544 received by that point) and give dealers the option of applying these fees to the next show (most did). Those who had sold advance tickets would also be reimbursed ($256). Further it was decided not to schedule a make-up show because of potential schedule conflicts with our dealers and demonstrators, and because it would be too much work for the Show Committee with the probable result of a lower quality show and lower attendance than the club wanted. All agreed that the best option would be to pick up the pieces and try again next September.

Epilog: So the probabilities caught up with us, and we took a direct hit on the show. But you know what? That’s the risk we take. You know the expression—if you play with the big boys then you take the big risks, but you also take the big payoffs. In this case, we have had four straight years of show profits on the order of $13,000–$16,000, and we don’t have a mortgage note to pay on the clubhouse. Our club finances are in excellent shape. I’m confident we’ll barely notice this a few years from now. It’ll be nothing more than a footnote in the historical advance of our club and our show to greater heights.

2006 is shaping up to be a case in point. It’ll be interesting to see the final attendance and financial figures, but I’ll wager that we’ll just pick up where we left off in 2004 and keep moving on. The momentum is there, the proper show fundamentals are there, the continuity and experience is there, the only thing that is not there is a 2005 show. We have a club that has passed its greatest threshold (purchasing and paying for a clubhouse). It provides a real service to the community with our adult and youth education. It has a large membership (400 is the largest in the SCFMS). It exists within a large and diverse metropolitan area and is able to draw considerable energy and resources from that population base. It has a fundamentally close and long-lived relationship with the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and that provides a benefit for both organizations.

And we have a national show in two years—2008. This means national attention. It means national prestige. It means an opportunity to show the country what a club and show should look like.

I’m confident that we’ll have no problem.

PART 4