Wow, off to another KTAI trade show… Having gone to the one in Primm last year, I was really looking forward to spending some time in sunny Florida!
I left out of Seattle via United on the 4th around 2:30pm, and arrived at Tampa International just short of midnight where local flier and friend Robert Randolph and his brother Steven were kind enough to pick me up, not to mention lodging me for the week.
Waking up at a grueling 10am local, I was definitely aware of the fact it was still only 7am by my internal clock… After a much needed stop at Starbucks, we made our way to the Harborview Center in Clearwater where the trade show was being held only to find that registration was not scheduled until much later in the afternoon.
With not a single flier in sight, we spotted a small park right out front and unrolled our kite bags…
Both on Sea Devils, the wind was a little choppy but certainly sufficient for us to fly for an hour or so… After a few minutes, I was pleasantly surprised to see Dodd Gross strolling up and spent a few minutes sharing my kite with him and catching up on things from when I saw him last at the AKA Convention in October.
65 degrees or so, winds at 4-6 mph… This might just turn out to be a pretty decent week of kiting, and despite the fact we’ll be spending most of our time indoors at the trade show, I think this little field just might be a nice respite in-between official duties.
Without much to do until the manufacturers meeting scheduled for 2pm, Robert and I stayed on the grass for a while – exchanging some trick techniques, flying through the fountain in the park’s pond and dodging the sprinklers that managed to cover a fair bit of our field as we were coming to a close.
Needless to say, as the photo shows below (center)… I didn’t successfully escape the sprinklers, and took a pretty healthy shot to the back, really not so bad in this moderate Florida weather.
Drying out fairly quickly, we made our way back into the convention center to find representatives from Goodwinds Kites, Klig’s Kites and Kite Loft already present… Lounging in the hallway outside the meeting room for fifteen minutes or so, more found their way in including Gomberg Kites, Revolution Kites and others.
By the time 2:15 rolled around, the manufacturers meeting was brought to session moderated by David Gomberg and Lolly Hadzicki… The roundtable discussion went on until 4pm on the dot.
Generally an idea exchange for the manufacturers themselves, it is my understanding that this was this first time such a meeting was open to other attendees as well (i.e. retailers, etc)… By my count, we had six manufacturers and eight retailers present, represented by a total of 22 people (not including myself and Kitelife).
With a fairly diverse group present, the topic of discussion seemed to rest heavily on the future of the KTAI… Membership and attendance has been dwindling each of the last several years and there were a number of interesting ideas proposed on how exactly to address the problems at hand.
Near the forefront of ideas presented was the possibility of merging the KTAI show with an existing trade show, either large or small… Naturally, there was some concern about opening an already limited market of products to even more businesses, thereby lessening the exclusivity of niche or “unique” products that kite shops currently have to offer. Higher booth rates were also a concern, as well as reduced buying power by way of other larger retailers from outside of the industry being able to get in on the action.
Another prominent idea discussed was either partnering the trade show with the annual AKA Convention (where it originally started), or downsizing slightly and adding one or two more “festival” oriented days in order to bring the energy level back up to what the kite community is normally so well known for, and to allow non-KTAI fliers (or the public) to come and participate at this level, on the field, with the newest products.
As a humble kiting publication, it’s not for me to say what the smartest step might be… But, I can safely say that I’m not feeling the excitement here that we as kite fliers should feel about our products, and it seems to me that bringing some energy and fun back into the KTAI is exactly what we need as an industry.
Kites will never die, and time will tell… It’s 2am, and I’m ready for a busier and more stimulating day tomorrow.
Until then… Good night, good flight!