“This is the largest hobby shop probably in the United States for 4-5 days. We bring people from all over the world.” Pete Maher is not joking. The Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center is nirvana for hobbyists this weekend, as it hosts the International Plastic Modelers Society’s 2016 USA National Convention
The event is expected to draw over 5,000 attendees, including visitors from all over the world. Many enthusiasts travel with their families, making the annual convention a part of their summer vacation plans. Vendors are on hand from Japan, England and the Czech Republic, among many other places. “There’s a real international flavor to it,” said Herb Plott III, a member of the local IPMS chapter who helped with the bidding process which brought the convention to Columbia.
“A lot of the people I’ve talked to from these faraway places have never even been to South Carolina before, and they’re loving it,” said Sarah Britt, director of sales for the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. The visitors were in evidence all over the Vista Friday, wearing their convention nametags as they headed to local restaurants for lunch. More than 2,200 hotel rooms were booked for the convention, which is expected to have an economic impact of more than $1.1 million.
The convention uses every room in the convention center, and Columbia has made them welcome with banners, a model airplane hanging from the convention center ceiling, and welcome flags along Lincoln Street. “When they come here, we really roll it out,” Britt said.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said Maher, the convention chairman and vendor coordinator and member of the local IPMS chapter. “We’ve gotten literally hundreds of comments on how smooth the show is, how professional it looks, how well the people have been received here. That’s the signature right there.”
The convention is open to the public from 8-3 Saturday. Tickets are $10 for individuals and $15 for families, and the event offers a lot for modelers and those unfamiliar with the hobby. “You look at this stuff and you’ll be amazed,” Maher said. “Every model tells a story.”
The models on display include countless cars, planes and ships, as well as superheroes, sci-fi and fantasy characters and vehicles, and even a humor category. More photos from the convention are available at the Midlands Anchor Facebook page. Seminars are also scheduled throughout the weekend on modeling and on the history behind some of the popular models.
While a basic model takes a couple of hours a day over three or four weeks to build, according to Plott, some on display this weekend go far beyond the basics. Some expert modelers do not use kits at all, starting from scratch, making their own plans (usually based on photos), and casting their own plastic. One of those, a model of the SS Normandie, was nine years in the making. Another on display, a still unfinished model of the Sovereign of the Seas, a British ship launched in 1637, has taken more than 3,000 hours so far and is one of less than ten models of its kind in the world.
Maher said great attention is given to even the smallest details. “All the knots that are tied are correct historically,” he said of the rigging on the model of the Sovereign of the Seas. “The detail excites your imagination, it really does.”
More information on the convention is available here.
Featured image: Guests sail into a world of imagination at the convention Friday (photo by Allen Wallace)