A Weekend Of Heroes 2008

AWH 2008 POST CONVENTION REPORT

By Jean Chevalier

I remember the aftermath of 911 when the nation lived in fear and many fun events in 2002 were canceled.  2008 brought the same sense of uncertainty to the collecting community due to the industry’s struggle with rising production cost in China and the soaring fuel cost. 

Just like the 2002, A Weekend of Heroes rose to the occasion and brought light to the otherwise dark and narrow tunnel.

When asked why AWH relocated from last year’s gigantic space to this year’s cozy Glendale Civic Auditorium, show producer John Lu said that he projected the soaring fuel cost will take his fleet of vintage military vehicles out of play, while China’s new labor law and the high production cost will hurt the purse string of many manufacturers, hence, it made more sense to restructure and still provide vendors a superb venue to showcase their goods.

Lu indicated that A Weekend of Heroes is now an Americana; it is a collective effort sprung from action figure industry, airsoft industry, collector groups, historical re-enactment groups, and hobby vendors. 

Enough about this year’s show background, let’s hit the show floor running!

Friday was a move-in only day.  However, Echobase Toys threw a huge party at the Pasadena Hooters Restaurant for collectors on Friday night.  Boys from OSW, collectors and media  had a blast at the party.  Reporters from UK’s Airsoft International Magazine attended the party and left with their  “Hooters battle cry”……“WE LOVE AMERICA!”  Once again, Hooters and Echobase Toys done their patriotic deeds!

The show opened to the public on Saturday at 10:00am.  With a press pass I was able to arrive at 9:00am to observe exhibitors’ pre-show dealings.  Surprisingly, public began to arrive as early as 9:15am; by 10:15 am a long line had formed under the unforgiving 102 degree sun.  Thank God for air-conditioning!

If you thought the temperature outside was hot, the action inside the auditorium was event ”hotter”.  OSW group setup an on-site “live broadcasting” station and was giving away prizes every half an hour.  Auditorium lobby was jammed with historical re-enactors in all types of period costumes ranging from Revolutionary to Vietnam.  Show floor aisles were so packed that it practically forced you into the dealer booth!

Operation Lion Claws Military Simulation Series (OLCMSS), setup side by side with the US Army, had their spokes model on site and was extremely well received by the Airsoft crowd.  At 11:00, the patriotic Hooters girls arrived to land support to this year’s figure contests as “celebrity judges” along with contest sponsors Echobase Toys and War Toys.  Over 40 entries graced the tables on the contest stage with outstanding artistry! Merit International and Ignite both contributed addition prizes to the contests.

Mr. Raymond Juliani of MILITOY magazine (French) and his crew flew in from Paris while Mr. Paul Monoff and his boys from RAIDER and Airsoft International magazines came all the way from London to cover the show.

This year’s show VIP/exclusive figure is US Army Special Forces Col. (ret) Paul Longgrear from the Battle of Lang Vei.  Col. Longgrear graciously sat at Toy Soldier (Hong Kong)’s booth to entertain autograph seekers and admirers.  Although Toy Soldier’s actual figure shipment was delayed, an impressive prototype was on site for all to preview. 

Adding icing on the cake, a two-tour SOG (Study and Observations Group) veteran, John “Tilt” Meyer, was also at the show.  Most SOG men didn’t live through one tour, this man did two; it was a tremendous honor to meet this humble American hero.

Last year’s exclusive figure/VIP, LRRP man Sgt. Kenn Miller was also on site to sign.

AWH 2003’s VIP, Ed Pepping of “Band of Brothers” once again graced the show with his forever-uplifting smile and positive personality!  Ed’s positive energy permeated throughout the show!

Ignite CO (Hong Kong) debuted an AWH2008 exclusive Samurai figure while Merit International showcased Al Rascon and German para commando Franski figures.  AWH 2008 marks Toy City’s first corporate direct involvement in the US!

It was a bit overwhelming by mid-day as the aisles became nearly impassable.

Spartan Imports, KWA USA, TSI Armories, and G&G Armament championed Airsoft side of the house.  The sound of bbs hitting metal targets coming from the shooting tunnel further enhanced the festive atmosphere.

Mr. Jack Kull gave a heart-felt talk about recovering POW/MIA remains from Vietnam at 1:30 while Col. Longgrear gave a detailed account of the fierce battle at Lang Vei at 3:30.

About an hour before show’s closing, producer John Lu asked everyone on the floor to observe a moment of silence in the memory of a long-time AWH vendor and friend, John from Atlantic Toys, who passed away earlier this year; the love was felt by all.

This year’s Saturday Night VIP dinner was, again, unannounced.  Lu explained that due to the high cost of the hotel dinner ($50 per person), he didn’t want to burden anyone, hence only invited corporate exhibitors, media, VIPs and exhibitors with three or more booths purchased; however, a handful of exhibitors/collectors managed to take part in this amazing dinner function.

Saturday Night VIP dinner was set up at the Los Angeles Hilton in North Glendale for the intimate attendance of 40.

Lu began by thanking everyone for their support then introduced his supportive wife to the crowd; evidently folks doubted Lu was really married due to his heavy involvement with so many hobby related events.  Lu also pointed out the sacrifices made by military wives, particularly Mrs. Longgrear who stood by her “tougher than nail” Green Beret husband throughout his impressive military career from Vietnam to Middle East (30 years).

SOG man John “Tilt” Meyer made the introduction speech on Col. Longgrear whose acceptance speech on being an action figure was moving and patriotic.  Mr. Jack Kull wrapped up the evening by talking about the importance of brining “closure” to families who lost loved ones during Vietnam War.
It was an ALL AMERICAN dinner that humbled us all.

Sunday crowd, while busy, didn’t see Saturday’s insanity.  Exhibitors and collectors could actually walk around and enjoy themselves with last minute shopping.  RC tanks finally had room to move around and show off their power.
At 1:15 scale contest winners were announced and awards handed out to winners.  Mr. Guy Ayal, a former IDF (Israeli Defense Force) soldier, and owner of TSI Armories, gave a talk on “Airsoft weapons made in USA”…. shocking that anything is made in the USA any more these days.

Perky Hooters girls were called upon to perform their patriotic duties by help judge the Military Loaded Out Contests; sadly, this year’s contest was mainly men.  Contestants ranged from a Revolutionary War Fusilier to WWII German paratroopers to a WWII Russian soldier, to Private Contractor to Modern Military Special Forces.  The cheering crowd decided the winners and Airsoft Extreme, Spartan Imports and G&G Armament each presented an Airsoft gun to the winners.

First place winner of the contest, Desert Commando Team, earned the privilege to be on the cover of Airsoft International Magazine!

By 2:30 on Sunday the show gradually came to a wrap.  In spite of the media’s constant barrage of financial gloom and doom, the 2008 A Weekend of Heroes was a community effort that brightened up our nights for the weekend!

 

  Jean Chevalier