My customary jet lag is finally shaken and I thought I'd file a report on the 31st annual BTS Exhibition while I have my first cup of coffee of the day.
31 years. It may be hard to believe, but the BTS is the world's oldest ongoing tarantula society and by far the best and most successful. The annual exhibition has been organized by Ray and Angela Hale for the past 25 years, and they do an absolutely brilliant job of making it better each year. The Hales are the backbone of the BTS. Ange has been responsible for our Head Office for quite some time, and Rayzor now sits as Vice Chairman of our great society.
|Great photo by sukisuki.co.uk of Ray and Ange Hale. Such a lovely couple. Can't believe they have been married for 33 years. He must have married Ange when she was 7. They are responsible for the best arachnid exhibition in the world.|
For as long as I have been aware of it, the BTS Exhibition has always been held in England's Midlands. This gives a central location for UK residents. In 2014, the Exhibition made a huge leap. It had grown continually over the years and traders from all over Europe were now showcasing their wares. Previous events were primarily held at schools. My first in 2006 was in a school gymnasium that had been used for years. However, with the 2014 Exhibition we hired Ricoh Arena, a first class venue and put on what was the best Exhibition yet. It is located in Coventry, which is in the Midlands, just south of Birmingham. There were some hiccups including using a second floor exhibit hall that necessitated using a freight elevator (or as they say, "lift"). I was in charge of running the traders up and down in the lift and I worked it so hard it finally broke. We ended up having to help late-arriving exhibitors up the stairs with their stuff. In 2015, we rented the larger exhibit hall on the ground floor of the Ricoh and put on what we thought was the show to end all shows. We didn't think we'd ever move elsewhere. However, the Arena had new owners and they attempted to extort us to resign for this year. They were politely told to fuck off.
So, Ray and Ange did what they've always done. They've busted their asses to make the BTS Exhibition the finest arachnid/invertebrate show. That's not my own hyperbole. People always talk about Hamm and Marbach in Germany, but every single European trader including the Germans tell us straight up that the BTS Exhibition is the best in the world. When we started at the Ricoh the Hales partnered up with Pandora Events who would help with the hotel bookings and such. Working with Pandora, Ray and Ange located the Warwickshire Exhibition Centre in Leamington Spa. Not as fancy and modern as the Ricoh, but even larger at 2200 square meters of exhibition space, the WEC proved to be the ideal venue. Attendees and traders alike preferred it to the Ricoh. The staff were brilliant and every single thing about the day from the parking to the food to the lighting to the access was superior to the Ricoh Arena. Our host hotel was the Holiday Inn Leamington Spa and it was a modern establishment that lived up to my upscale American standards. The 31st annual event was, by far, the most successful event for arachnoculturists and invertebrate dealers ever held. Until next year, that is... (The 32nd BTS Exhibition will be held at the same location on May 20, 2017).
This year I was entrusted with new duties. When Peter Kirk resigned as Journal Editor and the BTS Committee honored me with seceding Pete (and Richard Gallon before him), Peter also asked me to take on judging the Exhibition's competition and photographing the winning spiders, scorpions, photography, and both adult and children's artwork. So, in addition to 10 days worth of clothing, gifts for the Pennells and all the other stuff I had to haul overseas, I brought my 30 pound camera bag. Foolish, again. I should have just brought my macro rig. I used it to photograph the winning spiders and scorpion, but every other shot I took during the whole trip was taken with my iPhone 6S Plus. Anyway, I'll leave you with some of my favorite photos. I posted many of my own on my @exoticfauna Instagram. Many of the below were "borrowed" from other people (with photo credit given). If you haven't checked out my Instagram feed yet please do. There also have been some great images posted to the BTS Facebook Group.
The upcoming second issue of the BTS Newsletter will be a special issue devoted to the Competition. So those of you who are members will see both the winners and their entries. The Best in Show spider, which was a gorgeous Lasiodorides striatus owned by Britain Kitten, will also be featured on the annual membership card and bookmark.
|My "niece" Brandon, daughter of my dearest friends Mark and Kim Pennell. She's holding one of the incredible plush spiders that were being offered by sukisuki.co.uk who took the photo of the Hales seen above.|