What I learned at the DC Pen Show

Hello from Richmond, finally.  I now have internet at my apartment, so expect to see a lot more happening here soon.  First, let's start by talking about the DC Pen Show last weekend, shall we?  This will not really be a play-by-play of my experience there, since there are plenty of other posts like that and I feel like they all sorta sound the same...  Instead, I'll do a really brief recap, then what I learned at my first pen show, and what I would do differently next year.

Super quick recap, bullet point syle:

  • On Friday, Wesley and I took the Amtrak from Richmond to DC, then did a bit of sightseeing before we headed off towards the hotel
  • Once at the hotel, we hung out with people who had been at the show for the day (including my friend Paul, Brad Dowdy and Jeff Bruckwicki, and Thomas Hall, among others), then went to dinner with Paul and chatted the rest of the night away
  • Saturday was show day, and wow was that a long day.  Both Wesley and I exceeded our budgets, but hey, the pen show only comes around once a year, right?
  • After the show we went to dinner with Paul, Mary, and Gerald and then came back to the hotel and hung out with a whole bunch of people I won't try to name individually
  • On Sunday morning Wesley and I packed everything back up and did some more sightseeing before getting back on the train and heading home

Things I learned from my very first pen show:

  1. I know it's been said a lot before, but this community is so kind and so welcoming and it was wonderful to experience that firsthand at the show.  Also, I think that best parts of the weekend were after the show itself wrapped up each day and everyone just gathered at the hotel bar and had some drinks and lots of laughs as new-old friends.
  2. There is so much out there that I didn't know about at all.
  3. On that note, don't be afraid to ask questions if you don't know something.  Vendors at the show are very knowledgeable about their products, and even if they don't know the answer to your questions they probably can find someone who does.
  4. I had heard that it's best to bring cash to the show, and while this is definitely true for the vintage and smaller sellers, most of the bigger operations were able to take credit cards.  
  5. There were things I saw that I totally wanted but are totally not in my budget right now, being funemployed and all.  In that case, the best thing to do is take a picture of the thing that caught your eye (always ask permission first, it's the polite thing to do) and take their card or contact info.
  6. This is a practical thing - dress in layers.  The ballroom where the show is held starts off crisp, but once you cram a lot of people in there it can get toasty.  Also, places like DC where it gets very hot in the summer like to blast the a/c, so that indoors you are forced to wear a sweater in the middle of August but you will melt if you go outside like that.
  7. If you don't arrive pretty early, steer clear of the ink sampling table.  That many hands passing through there means that even if everyone is careful, enough mistakes will happen to probably contaminate every bottle in short order.

Things I will do differently in 2016 (note that some of these are only applicable if you travel the way we did, where you don't have a car at your disposal and must rely on your own feet or public transit):

  1. Go to the hotel first, drop off my bags, and then go sightseeing.  Tromping around in the summer heat and sun with heavy backpacks was a poor choice, and we felt it for the rest of the weekend.  On the same note, no sightseeing after we check out at the end of the trip.
  2. Get a map of the Metro on paper, since you don't want to chew up data unnecessarily on a cell phone and that's assuming you have service when you need it.
  3. Also, get a Smart Pass (or whatever it's called) for the Metro, since riding from downtown DC to the hotel was not cheap and I think the Smart Pass knocks off a dollar per trip?
  4. Have a bigger budget (I'm blaming my too-small budget on the move and unemployment) and have it in cash.  And don't even think about bringing my credit cards to the show.  And, if other people want me to get them stuff, get the money in hand ahead of time.
  5. Bring shorts and a hat for sightseeing.
  6. Next year I plan to get a weekend trader pass and will probably do most of my "shopping" on Friday and then maybe just poke my head into the show Saturday.  It was so crazy and loud and crowded Saturday that I would much rather take most of that day off to hang out elsewhere and just come back in the evening for the after-hours festivities.
  7. Get the hotel reserved early enough to get the show rate.  Again, I'm blaming this on the move, but I do not want to pay full price again next year.
  8. Bring a proper suitcase, because after a few purchases our backpacks were stuffed.  The backpacks were nice because they allowed us to sightsee before going to the hotel, but as a consequence of #1 on this list, I think we will bring something bigger next year.

Sorry I couldn't provide much in the way of images, but most of the pictures I took at the show turned out pretty dismal.  The lighting in that ballroom did not agree with my camera at all, but once I realized that it made things a bit less stressful because I didn't bother with pictures anymore and just lived in the moment.  You can certainly check out my instagram though, as there were a few that were passable when properly filtered.

Anyway, that's it for today!  Coming up expect to see some more ink reviews, a tour of our new apartment, as well as Pen Talk videos resuming next week.