Koi America 2011, were you there?
It’s back baby! The MAKC, Mid-Atlantic Koi Club (www.MAKC.com), hosted the Koi America 2011 event. After a 1 year hiatus Koi America was back on the map for 2011 and took place in Westminster, MD between September 23-25. This was the 22nd show for the MAKC and it was a beautiful weekend for it. The show was held in the Carroll County Agricultural Center which is nestled in the green and pretty rolling hills of Maryland. Getting to the show for club members from the middle Atlantic states of the US was easy with its geographically central locale. Hotel accommodations are no problem with close by locations and show packages. And parking at the facility is a breeze.
Thursday 9/22, was a day of setting up by the dedicated MAKC members, preparing for the vendors and exhibitors. Friday 9/23, was moving in time for vendors and exhibitors; this is a busy time for the hard work of setting up displays and preparing the holding tanks for some of the most amazing koi in the area, and the party for the vendors started at 3pm (5pm somewhere)! Next year I may have to just wander in at that time…and stay, otherwise MAKC members have to wait till 5pm to get in on the fun, but come 8 pm its lights out as everyone has to get ready for the big day ahead. Saturday 9/24, late registration for koi happens in the early morning and then the shows doors opened to the public at 9am.
The members of the MAKC put together a cozy and nice show this year and the event was attended not only by koi enthusiasts from across the nation, but from around the world. Vendors also made their appearances offering up everything from artwork and books, to pond equipment and foods. And of course koi, lots of koi, beautiful koi. Many of the vendors were well known breeders and dealers with some amazing fish available for the public to bring home. Many of the koi that were entered for this years judging had at one time been purchased from the very vendors who were on hand with their latest selections of koi. A quick stroll around the exhibit center brought you face to face with companies like the seemingly ubiquitous Kodama Koi Farm (www.kodamakoifarm.com), Sugarloaf Koi (www.nykoi.com), Blackwater Creek Koi (www.blackwatercreekkoi.com), Hanover Koi (www.jnfkoifarms.com), Quality Koi Co. (www.qualitykoi.com), and Kloubec Koi Farm (www.kloubeckoi.com). Hikari, Mazuri, The Sequoia Company, and Seagate Filters were also represented along with other companies showing their products for ponds.
During the course of the show an excellent roster of speakers were on hand and one could choose from various topics to sit in on, and not just listen but have the opportunity to Q&A with the presenters too. I sat in on a lecture by Joe Pawlak from Blackwater Creek Koi Farm who gave an honest and open look into what it is like running a koi farm. Joe gave the ups, downs, good, bad, and ugly of koi farming was eye opening in his honesty. Joe was not shy to admit that koi farming is not always perfect and there are huge challenges in breeding and raising top quality koi. He gave a humorous look at dealing with predators from birds to bears. Joe spoke about raising a family working in this industry and for anyone who tries to balance both of those worlds they know that those worlds will almost always combine; making this “work” more of a lifestyle. His presentation was excellent and highly enjoyable I must say. I was also able to sit in on the presentation by Taro Kodama of Kodama Koi Farm. In his presentation Taro broke down exactly how high quality Japanese koi eventually can be made available to collectors and koi keepers in the US. He described the channels that the fish go through, and the relationships that his company has built over many decades with the best breeders of Niigata Japan, the global epicenter of koi farming. Taro’s presentation was enlightening and gave a deeper appreciation of what it actually takes to get a high quality koi into your own pond. Other pond authorities like Bill Ridgway, John Fornaro, and Bill Story also lectured and presented at Koi America. Beside speakers the Koi America 2011 show also had a raffle, an auction, a table filled with koi related “stuff” and collectibles. A concession stand with some tasty treats was manned by local volunteers who were friendly and helpful, the coffee was not half bad either!
I was happy to run into Mamoru Kodama who graciously and artistically signed his new book for myself and many other show attendees. Tom and Cindy Graham from Pond Trade Magazine were on hand. Myron and Ellen Kloubec had their “koi show on wheels” at the show, Kloubec Koi has a great set up I always enjoy visiting at the shows I see them at. Matt Corino from Sugarloaf Koi spent time to show me around the display tanks giving his keen insight into the qualities of each fish. Many of the tanks stocked with these show koi had actually come from Sugarloaf Koi. One koi in particular stood out to me because of her incredible size and beauty; as I marveled at her, the koi’s owner mentioned that this amazing koi also came from Sugarloaf Koi. Sugarloaf had a strong showing for 2011! My home state of New Jersey koi breeders, Quality Koi/Nisei Koi Farm from Carneys Point, NJ were busy bagging up some real beauties for lucky attendees to bring home to their ponds too. I spoke to Joe Zuritsky, president of Quality Koi/Nisei Koi Farm and made plans to see their upcoming ikeage on 10/2/11. I also snuck in a quick hand shake to Matt McCann the head breeder at Quality Koi as he was busy bagging up some living jewels. I even met a (one, single) Pond Hunter fan at the show!
While all this went on, so did the judging, quietly…relentlessly. The judges diligently passed from tank to tank, and back again. Taking notes, comparing notes; meticulous in their decision making. This year’s judges Grant Patton, Penny Patton, and Mike Frady left no tank unturned. ZNA chapter president Philip Gray was on hand too, with a discerning eye on these show koi. From tosai to jumbo koi, numerous varieties and categories were represented in this show; even butterfly koi. After the visiting and revisiting of each and every koi entered into this years show, the judges made their decisions known at the awards banquet held later that night. The award for MAKC Koi America 2011 Grand Champion went to Joyce Spears and her Sanke in the over 28” category. Many other deserving awards were presented as well to some outstanding koi keepers. I was a little disappointed not to see a goldfish show within the Koi America show this year, I love the goldfish varieties. Maybe next year.
On Sunday 9/25, attendees were welcomed to walk the tanks with the judges with a chance to get their perspective on what they look for when judging koi. Then it was time to break down the tanks. The show had come to another end of another year. It was time to go back home and start getting ready for next years show! Everyone wants to make 2012 their year, and to do that they have a lot of work ahead of them, and some formidable koi keepers and koi to challenge them. It seems like a year is not enough time so break down is quick and before you know it this years show is just a memory and Koi America 2012 will be here!
Did I have any complaints? Well, since you brought it up, yes. It was very hard to view many of the tanks, and next to impossible to get a good photo. The reason is that the air diffusers in almost every viewing tank were placed right smack dab in the middle, agitating the water to the point of obscuring the view. For those of us who made the 3,4,5 hour drive, spent the money for hotels and eating out, and dedicated out time the being at the show it would have been nice to easily see the koi, and it was not. After all it is a koi SHOW, not a koi obscure! Let’s see the koi! Show us the koi! Place the aerating diffusers (at least during public viewing times) at the back of the holding tank against the wall so it does not obstruct and obscure the view of what we all came there for, show quality beautiful koi. Apart from that the show was a pleasure!
The dedicated members of the MAKC deserve huge thanks for putting together such a nice show. Ruth Rice, Susan Boland, Floyd and Carolyn Broussard, Bruce Levine, Nicole Lembke, Carolyn Weise, Ellie Cooper, and Wayne Orchard put their hearts, souls, time, and resources into making this show happen. Koi America may not be the biggest and most prestigious of the koi shows, but it is certainly one worth attending. I am already looking forward to Koi America 2012 and hope when I ask; “were you there?” the answer will be “YES!”
All copyrights to this material belong to Mike Gannon.
Koi America 2011, were you there?