21st annual – Las Vegas, NV
I always look forward to this event… It’s not what you’d call a “kiteflier’s event”, but if you’re in the business and keen on learning about the industry as well as the community, it’s a very cool place to come and see what’s new from the various manufacturers, touch base with kite folks who aren’t often at the flying events during the year, and it’s one of the best possible places to get a sense of how the kite industry is getting along as a whole.
The industry is the other side to our community, and while some may not be as interested in it, I’ve come to understand that the health of both is necessary for kiting to grow and thrive as a whole.
Although I’d attended the show with another company at the Stardust hotel in 1994, my first year at the trade show as a business owner (Kitelife.com) was in Primm, 2005… At that time, and for the 2-4 years following, there was a lot of doubt as to where the KTAI was headed with greatly reduced membership, frustrated management and a waning industry.
I encourage you read our reports from previous years, in order to get a larger view of where the KTAI organization and trade show are today, and how exactly we got here.
2005 – http://kitelife.com/magazine/ktai05/
2006 – http://kitelife.com/magazine/ktai06/
2007 – http://kitelife.com/magazine/ktai07/
2008 – http://kitelife.com/magazine/issue58/ktai08/
2009 – http://kitelife.com/magazine/issue64/ktai09/
2010 – http://kitelife.com/magazine/issue70/ktai10/
Traditionally I have a “walking booth” at the show, which means I’m able to wander the halls and sell my digital wares wherever I’m standing as long as it’s in good taste and not interfering with another exhibitor’s presentation… But no booth status for me this year, since I would be spending most of my time in the Into The Wind and Revolution Kites booths.
Arriving at the Las Vegas airport in the morning around 9am, I learned that my roommates were going to be somewhat delayed due to weather in Denver so I rang up my friend Kent Kingston (A Wind of Change) who actually lives in Las Vegas and was kind enough to pick me up at the airport and provide a ride to the Texas Station hotel where this years trade show would be held… Thanks a million Kent, greatly appreciated!
Since the exhibitor set up actually didn’t start until Tuesday, the conference room where the show would be held was still relatively barren… What the heck, so I figured I’d fly my indoor Rev for a bit with Tom Savage from Premier looking on and taking a brief lesson – we flew on my usual 12′ lines and enjoyed a nice amount of overhead… I recalled something about a 30′ x 30′ dedicated indoor flying area in the trade show program, turns out I was the actually the first one to break it in.
As I sat in the bar and signed up for my hotel “Boarding Pass” (good for buffet discounts), kite folks slowly started to arrive – The Dual family from In The Breeze, the Gomberg crew and more of Premier’s staff were among the first to roll in along with the amazing Maggie Vohs and Billy Jones of Cameo Management who are actually responsible for all the logistics and on-site organization of the trade show.
After a brief stop at the buffet for a decent lunch with lots of variety, I flew a bit more while I waited for my roommates to arrive.
Once they arrived, I checked in and took a trip to the airport with Mary Ann McVay (ITW) to pick up Cristoph Fokken, then went to eat at a lovely Italian restaurant inside the hotel… After a great meal, I spent a couple of hours socializing at the bar which featured an El Dorado (yes – a whole car) above it while more folks came in, many of whom are old, dear friends whom I’ve known for many years, one of the many reasons I greatly enjoy this event.
After the proper amount of libation, I made my way up to the room… Far better than the accomodations we had in Primm, as the entire premises were actually in receivership at the time – service was in disarray, and the hallways were actually leaking water during a heavy rainfall… A step up indeed, good facilities at the Texas Station, I found myself hoping we find ourselves back here for the 2012 trade show.
Getting up at 8am for a quick breakfast at the buffet, I made my way into the conference room to help Into The Wind set up their booth… I’d never been on this side of things, and while I’d observed it all happen on previous years, it was interesting to actually be a part of the process as some of these booths are fairly elaborate.
All through the show room floor, folks were chatting and setting up their wares for display, it was a really good vibe as a few manufacturer representatives and various attending store owners started to gather for the morning meetings.
Retail Boot Camp
This perennial favorite workshop is a must for anyone attending the trade show for the first time, and it’s also a chance for some of us “old dogs” to learn a few new tricks. We’ll discuss how to get the most out of the trade show, so you can tailor your strategy to meet your retail goals. Secrets of this year’s trade show format will be revealed – don’t miss out!
Retail Idea Exchange 1 – “Where in the World?”
This moderated open exchange gives retailers the opportunity to share and learn about products NOT featured at the KTAI show. Have you been to any new and exciting trade shows this past year? Have you discovered something different and want to share your success with you fellow KTAI members? Seeing is believing, so, if possible, please bring a sampl of any product(s) you are recommending and manufacturer/distributor contact information. Come share your ideas and pick up some great tips from your colleagues.
I didn’t manage to attend either of these myself, but speaking from experience at previous shows, they are very worthwhile and it always surprises me how willing attendees are to share tips with others in the same industry.
A new feature this year, the Exhibitor’s Strut gave a 10 minute slot for each manufacturer who signed up to talk about their company and products for the benefit of attending retailers… Generally starting with a self-introduction, most of the time was used for talking about their company principles and product line, as well as to highlight any new items being introduced for 2011.
With all the official set up and services for the day completed, it was time for the evening reception which always serves as a great ice breaker for new attendees to be greeted in a social format, as well as for old friends to catch up before the start of the show… The food was good, and the drinks were both stiffer and cheaper than what was being served on the casino floor.
While exhibitors were allowed onto the floor finish their early morning set up, attendees sat in on the Meeting of the Minds…
This precursor to the Annual Business Meeting is especially important for everyone to attend this year. The primary focus will be an open discussion with the Board regarding upcoming changes for future convention and trade shows. Based on prior member intention of continuing to meet each fall if that works well. This is it! YOU will decide what the convention and trade show of the future will look like, so come to the Meeting of the Minds and share your vision. Location? Format? Exact date? It’s all on the table – let’s discuss! A committee will be formed to turn your ideas into reality.
Highlights (but not the outcome) of discussions included:
- Potentially moving the trade show to October, with consideration given to balancing needs of manufacturers versus retail, as well as potential conflicts with other shows.
- The possibility of piggy backing the trade show with AKA or another show.
- Logistics of moving the trade show between east/west coasts year to year, discussion on where to go next year, and the pros and cons of scheduling back to back with another worthwhile show in Vegas that members might want to attend, thereby extending both their trips and potential benefit.
- Ideas on how to expand use of the KTAI website to feature manufacturers and new products as a retailer resource.
A lot of the topics are annually recurring and while there was still healthy debate on nearly everything, the mood and overall consensus was the best that I’ve seen over the past six trade shows I’ve attended myself… The one thing I will reveal from the meeting is that it appears likely we’ll be returning to Las Vegas for 2012, which is just fine by me as I think it’s a fine venue.
At 10am, the doors opened to 38 attending retail companies, welcomed by the following exhibitors:
HQ Kites & Designs
no web site
Jelly Belly Candy Co
no web site
Peter Lynn / Vliegerop
Shanti Kite Co.
Flying Wings Kites
Great Winds Kite Co.
In The Breeze
Into The Wind
New Tech Kites
Phantom Star Kites
William Mark Corp
With 105 companies on the current KTAI membership roster (retail, manufacturer and other), 66% of the association companies were actually represented at this years show, a small association by some standards, but we’ve been seeing a gradual increase over the past 2-3 years after great losses prior to 2006… All told, we had 105 individuals at the show this year.
As the first show day came to a close, folks relaxed and prepared for the Annual Business Meeting where members and the Board discussed bylaw changes, the future of the organization, and many of the same items which came up at the Meeting of the Minds, but in a more official and decisive capacity.
Also addressed was the annual change in board members, with Elaine Leitner and Mary Ann McVay stepping down after serving out their terms… The nominations to replace those two positions were:
Daren Henderson – SF Kite Co
Dave Colbert – Above It All
Jay Knerr – The Kite Loft
Jim Christianson – Skydog Kites
Dave Shenkman – Kite Connection
After the vote were tallied, Jim and Daren were elected… Corey Jensen was made president by his fellow board members, with Jim Christianson to serve as Vice-President.
The last show kicked off with another round of “Exhibitor’s Strut”, and PART TWO of the “Retail Idea Exchange” which focused on the new products which were most appealing at this years trade show.
On this note, I didn’t get a chance to wander the other booths as thoroughly as I would have liked but here are a few of the new items I saw on the maneuverable kite front…
Laima (Flying Wings)
A new single line indoor/outdoor urban flying kite, this is a really striking bird design with awesome graphics… A brief test flight in the hallways gave me the sense that it will appeal to folks who enjoyed the Wala, but with better gliding and aesthetic value.
**photo below – 2nd row / 3rd column – video link
Silver Fox 2.3 Pro (Flying Wings)
I didn’t get a chance to fly this one, but looking at it on the showroom floor – it appears to be a total remake of the popular Silver Fox 2.3 utilizing new graphics with improved construction and materials.
**photo below – 2nd row / 1st column – video link
Mojo Quad (HQ Kites)
An interesting entry into the quad line market, the Mojo features a double leading edge that curves and overlaps in the center of the kite… In the light and variable Vegas winds, it felt a bit stiff (flat) but came around when loaded up with some wind pressure, giving very decent reverse flight, bicycle rotations and clock work.
**photo below – 3rd row / 3rd column – no video found
Crossfire Comp (Skydog Kites)
The latest offering from Dodd Gross and the dog pound, I didn’t get to fly this one but Dodd said this is a “kicked up” version of the original Crossfire… Since this was my favorite of the Skydog sport kite line, I’m looking forward to experiencing this one for myself.
**photo below – 3rd row / 2nd column – video link
Zero Air spars (Avia / Goodwinds)
One of the lightest wrapped carbon rods I’ve seen in awhile, “zero air” is an appropriate name for these… In speaking with Paul DeBakker at the Goodwinds booth, he said they’re not really geared for general outdoor use but that they work very well for SUL and indoor applications.
Skybond Line (Shanti Kites)
Coming back onto the scene with renewed passion, Daniel Prentice spent the past year working on a refining a new polyethylene line under the old name of Skybond… As it says on the Shanti web site, “This new, neon-yellow coating uses a polymer-alloy which bonds to the fibers and protects them from damage, yet remains slippery.”
**no photo – more info
Kymera (Into The Wind)
My own development for this year, I’ll forgo details on this one in lieu of what I’ve posted elsewhere, saying only that it was designed to provide a solid old school / new school balance of trick and precision.
**photo below – 1st row / 1st column – video link
Being charged with organizing the the product demonstration time, I introduced a “kite concierge” idea… Since we had only a parking in which to fly, the short length of the show and the fact that relatively few folks were actually interested in test flying, having a full dedicated “demo day” doesn’t work so well these days, although that may change next year.
The idea behind “kite concierge” was to assign five impartial representatives from the various exhibitors to serve as demo “handlers”, walking any retailer out to the flying area with anything they wanted to fly from any manufacturer… While we had some takers, there wasn’t a lot of interest and about a dozen folks ended up out there on Thursday afternoon in light, variable winds.
Per my earlier reference, there was some discussion about dedicating a day to product demonstration like we used to have up until a few years ago… I’d love to see this personally, and will certainly do what I can to help.
Back on the trade show floor, attendees made their final rounds from booth to booth, getting in their last minute orders and getting time with manufacturers they may not have stopped in to see yet.
With our last day on the floor behind us, it was time for the annual KTAI awards banquet and dinner… Along with the usual (and often colorful) acknowledgements between colleagues, board members, attendees and volunteers, a rotating panel of speakers announced the nominations and winners of various industry awards as voted on by their peers.
Here is the complete list of award recipients at this years trade show:
David Checkley Lifetime Contribution Award – 2010
Bodega Bay, CA
Retailer of the Year – 2010
Ocean Shores Kites
Ocean Shores, WA
Wholesaler of the Year – 2010
In The Breeze
Kite of the Year – 2010
Rev B Pro
Best Booth – 2011
Best New Product Introduced At the Show 2011
William Mark Corp
Best New Product Not a Kite 2010
Triple Pedal Flower
In The Breeze
Best Kite Promotional Effort 2010
Kite Festival of the Year – 2010
SPI Kite Festival
South Padre Island, TX
And with that, the 2011 KTAI trade show came to a close… I’m very glad to have been there, and for those of you in the industry, I hope you’ll consider joining us next year – it really is a good time, you’ll learn lots and make a ton of new friends.