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Issue 12 (Nov/Dec 1999): AKA Convention

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#1 Phil Broder

Phil Broder


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Posted 01 December 1999 - 04:00 AM

By Phil Broder, Mike Gillard, and Al Stroh
Photos by Mike Gillard, Robin Haas, Roger Chewning, Tom McAllister, Craig Rodgerson, Bob Hogan

One For The Ages

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How about a five day party for you and 504 of your best friends? That is just what we had at the AKA Convention in Muncie, Indiana. This year's convention set a high mark for future gatherings to beat, thanks to excellent organization and the tireless work of the many volunteer staffers.

Rather than the "normal" event report, we opted for a different approach. We asked several KiteLife.com staffers to note their recollections during the week, notebook style, and we post them here for you.

And now for something completely different!

Cool Hi-Tech Stuff & 42 Ounce Margaritas!
by Allen Stroh

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During our trip to the AKA National convention in Muncie, Indiana, Susan Shampo and I saw some amazing, very cool kites and accessories. On Wednesday night at the night fly, Brian Champie introduced Susan and I to Mike Delfar, the creator of the night lights that won the People's Choice Award at the convention banquet on Saturday night. These little glowing jewels are so cool that it's hard to describe what they do to a kite under a night sky. They twinkle, they shimmer, they dance around on your kite like tiny Tinkerbells on fire. The effect is so dramatic that I'm SURE they would cause a multi-car pile up on any freeway in Southern California after sunset. I want MANY of them!!

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At the Fly Mart, BBS Tech (Berry Blue Line) was selling their ES/55 line sets on those cool, blue winders for 15 bucks a pop! Susan and I bought about 10 sets. It was impossible to resist and they WILL get used. Four of the line sets I bought will be turned into quad sets. Susan bought a bunch just because she wants to maintain her world record for having the most line sets on the planet. I think she has at least 87 (at last count) and I just ordered about another 2000 feet of Spectra from Dan Whitney to make even MORE lines for next year. She goes through them like most people go through toilet paper. EVERYthing in excess. That's our motto.

There were simply too many gorgeous kites to describe. The turnout for the kite builders competition was the largest in AKA history and well in excess of 100 entrants. I stood slack-jawed in the 1-liner's field on Wednesday watching the parade of killer kites filling the sky as one after another was hoisted onto the light breezes. It was incredible.

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When Susan and I walked onto the field, Big Sam (Ritter) was flying his 16-stack of Revs ... a sight I'll never forget. Sam looks like he could move a mountain with his bare hands, so flying 16 Revs at once didn't even break a sweat on him. Mr. Ritter even went on to win himself a trophy in the kite building competition with one of coolest kites I've ever seen. Great job, Sam!

Steve's Cool Kites and Teeny Cameras

Steve LaPorte made a good showing of the production version of his new kite ... the Spirit. For those of you who don't know, Steve's kites are now being made by Pam Kirk who is probably the best kite seamstress in the country. She makes all those gorgeous T&T custom kites for Sky Burner and her work is impeccable. Steve's Spirit kite is drop-dead gorgeous and flies like no other quad I've ever seen. The new bridle he came up with turns an already great kite into one that is so effortless to do flat spins and axles with that it should be outlawed. I want MANY!

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I spoke with Steve several times during the week and asked him about his head-cam ... a cool little contraption that he came up with a few years ago. Basically, he takes a camcorder and duct-tapes it to his head so he can video tape his practices. Looks pretty cool too and ripping all that duct tape off is what keeps Steve's head so smooth and shiny. Steve is funny that way.

I asked him whatever happened to it and he (excitedly) started telling me about this tiny, new, postage stamp sized (spy) camera that just became available ... and I started to think (uh oh). There must be about a million uses for one of those gadgets ... none of them fit for print ... but it occurred to me that a suitably equipped (and endowed) female flier could provide enough entertainment to keep an entire room full of (male) fliers occupied for hours.

"We like duct tape, spackle and large mouthed bass. We hate to shop.
(all together now) Because We're Guuuuyyyys. Yup."

Muncie is a very strange place. The above quote is from a commercial that Susan and I heard on the radio while driving around aimlessly one night. It was actually sung to a rather goofy country western melody. A real toe-tapper. We heard another one where some guy threatened to kill another guy ... over what, we have no idea, but it was probably some power tool or other. Maybe a John Deere tractor, we're not sure. 'Coulda been a T-bone steak for all we know. Those Munconians sure know how to have fun. Yup.

The food in Muncie was quite good. Sharon and Brian Champie, Jennifer and Lionel Gibbons, myself, Susan and Alan Brooks all went out to dinner one night and ate more food than the entire population of Ethiopia eats in a year. We waddled ... yes WADDLED out of the restaurant when we were done and the bill was close to 4 figures, I'm sure. They had 42 ounce Margaritas! I want MORE!

Over the course of the Nationals, I flew Alan Brooks' new AB+ several times and had many a flier walk up and start asking questions, ask to fly it, and then want to know where to get one. Alan got a few orders from that deal, I know. I'm really happy to see other fliers interested in Alan's kite. It's an amazing combination of precision and trickability ... the perfect combo for ballet (in any form).

And here's a bit of salacious info that should strike fear into the hearts and minds of all you Masters Class pairs fliers out there. Bert Tanaka is back on the scene flying ballet and precision with Larry Navarro (formerly of Air West). To make matters worse, they're in the process of striking up a deal with Alan Brooks for a whole set of AB+ kites. And just to throw a little steam into the mix, Susan Shampo and I are also going to jump into the Masters Pairs ring (we'll be using the AB+ as well). Should be a hoot. Our first routine will be based on a digitally mastered recreation of Dueling Banjos substituting fart sounds for the instruments. I get the low notes. The name of the routine will be called "Dueling Flatulence". Bring your earplugs.

There was a young fellow (one of the members of the pairs team Tahlooosa) flying a quad kite along side the #1 field on Thursday. I don't recall his name but I'll never forget the kite he was flying. It was a Rev 1.5 SLE ... but it didn't fly at all like ANY Rev I've ever seen before. Several of us were standing there watching, totally amazed at what the kite was doing (in the hands of a great flier, I might add). He was literally slamming the kite down into wing tip stabs so aggressively that an ordinary Rev would have splintered into a thousand pieces. He finally took a break and I asked him if I could take a look at his kite. What I saw amazed me. The vertical spreaders were SkyShark 5PTs and the spine rods were SkyShark New Generation Series 200. It was light as a feather yet incredibly stiff.

I mentioned this to Jon Trennepohl during a conversation about SkyShark rods and he knew all about it. He also told me about a new indoor Rev that was being developed and that it would be framed in ... you guess it ... SkyShark rods! I recently picked up a Neos Omega ... about as low-tech a quad kite as you'll find. And although it flies amazingly well in light winds, this new indoor Rev should be the giant killer we've ALL been waiting for. Gimme MORE!

You want more? Here we go ...

Via the usual grapevine (Rumor Control) I have it on good authority that Peter Betancourt is negotiating with Revolution to produce a line of custom "Art Kites". These killer Revs will feature his new Tribal design appliqué and should provide enough surface area for Pete to get REALLY creative. As one the most prolific and artistic kite builders of this decade, Peter will (I'm sure) do justice to the huge canvas we call a Rev. I can't wait to see it!

But I digress. Back to the Nationals ...

The competition amongst the fliers in quad and dual line ballet was ferocious. I've never seen so many great fliers assembled in one area before. We have world-class fliers between our shores and the best of those Masters are going to the Sportkite World Championships in Malaysia next February. I hope they do well. This might be good time for those folks to start looking at those STACK figures. Too bad the AKA hasn't encouraged anyone to do that. They seem to be enamored with the new rule book and forcing people to WALK their kites onto the field ... but when it comes to flying the same figures and the same events that the rest of the world is flying, you get dead silence. Go figure. Sorry for the rant ... but they DO have it coming.

One of my favorite fliers, Eric Allen, took first place in Experienced Quad Ballet with a routine that I've loved since the first time I saw him perform it at one of our SoCal events this past season. Eric is a great pilot and I'm sure will go on to give the Masters quad fliers (yes ... he DID move up!) fits in the coming years. Great job, Eric!

I've never seen so many hi-tech video gadgets in one place before. There were more digital cameras and camcorders than you can shake a stick at. And I thought I had some cool toys! There must have been $100K worth of video equipment floating around the various fields on Thursday ... all eyes and lenses turned toward the fliers. Sony would have been proud. Maybe it IS true what they say. He who has the most toys when the game is over, wins!

The Meteorologists (Meaty Urologists?) Exact Revenge

The weather on Friday provided the kind of challenge that any sane flier would pass on. It was raining ... raining HARD ... and continued to rain heavily throughout the day. To make it even more challenging, it was cold and the wind was high and bumpy. I was the AKA's scorekeeper that day ... huddled in Susan Skinner's van with a laptop, a printer and an ever growing mound of very wet score sheets. What can I say?! I may be big and dumb looking but momma didn't raise no fool. It was DRY in that van!

The Past Masters fly on Saturday was (for me) the highlight of the entire week's venue. The previous day's weather continued but didn't hinder the fliers nor the mounting excitement of the crowd. Dean Jordan's 8 man field crew (unsolicited, I might add) set the tone for the event. It was hilarious. Seeing Ron Reich again, who I used to fly with every week at Mission Bay Park here in San Diego, was like a blast from the past. Ron is, without a doubt, the best flier I've ever seen and as the father of modern day sport kiting, you'd be hard pressed to find a better spokesman for our sport. Ron's contribution to sport kiting is immeasurable and he has been sorely missed. If there is one thing I'd like to see more of in our sport, it's Ron.

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All You Guys... Outta Here NOW!

At the banquet on Saturday night while Adam Grow (our newly crowned President) was giving a speech, Brian Champie was whispering (something we won't go into here) to Erica Allen and got her into a laughing fit while the entire assembly was dead silent. I'm not talking just a giggle or two here. This was one of those bone-rattling, belly shaking, beer shooting out your nose laughing fits that continued for several minutes. There were a few moments there where I thought we were ALL going to get booted out ... but Adam took it in stride and you'll have to ask Brian who or what the brunt of his humor was directed at (I'll never tell). I thought Erica was going to pee her pants though.

Ron Gibian donated an absolutely gorgeous kite for the auction that Lionel Gibbons took a fancy to. His lovely wife Jennifer, being the incredibly astute and kite-savvy woman she is, picked up on Lionel's desire to own one of Ron's amazing creations and when the bidding started, she raised her hand. By the time the auctioneers saw her, the bid was up to 900 bucks ... which was the FINAL bid ... and Jennifer just about peed her pants too. The Gibbons family went home with what I thought was the coolest looking kite offered at the auction that night. I don't know if they'll ever actually fly it but for 900 bucks, you can bet your bridle that I would!

All things considered, it was a great Nationals and one I'll never forget. If nothing else, we all left with mightily filled stomachs, a pile of wet clothes and the knowledge that next year it'll be even better (it'll be hurricane season in Florida too!). Maybe by then we'll have even more hi-tech stuff to report on and with any luck, we might see a few kites with THREE spines, six spreaders and a vibrating nose cap. Just what the doctor ordered. Yup.

Monday, October 4, 1999
by Phil Broder

Driving out here through endless bronze soybean fields, I was suddenly struck by the thought that I was just going to see all my friends. Sure enough, everyone’s here. Registration is over 450 already (Ed: Paid registration topped out at 505), about a 20% increase over last year. I see a lot of Michiganders who’ve never been to a convention before. I’m sure that there are some coastal flyers who can’t come to Indiana, or will gripe about not having beaches, but the idea of geographically rotating the convention really helps bring out new faces.

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The opening night reception, hosted by Hoosier Kite Society, was easily the most fun opener ever. You know you’re in farm country when the centerpieces are miniature haybales (however does John Deere make the tractors that small?) and the waiters are all in straw hats. Lots of kites and stuff to raffle off, plenty of bags of giveaways, and heaps of Midwestern meat and potatoes. And who knew that Ron and Charm Lindner could dance like that? As if pins aren’t enough, I now have a complete set of Tanna and Glen Haynes trading cards (Mike Gillard has suggested making a complete set of Kitelife.com trading cards; I can only assume that my card will be worth two Phil Napier’s). All indications are that this is going to be a fun week. The buggy crowd is excited about the size of the fields. If today’s grey skies clear up, it should be a beautiful week.

But speaking of storm clouds, rumor has it that there are major problems with the ballots for the AKA election. Stay tuned to this channel to see how much rain falls out of this one. (Editor's Note: This story didn't pan out. Turned out there were a few unreadable ballots for one RD spot)

by Mike Gillard

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Well, here we are! The day is beautiful, if a tad cold. Morning temperature was in the high 30’s, but the bright blue skies made it tolerable. Off to the Convention Center for registration and the morning workshops.

After the morning sessions, it was off to the fields for an afternoon of flying. What a great day! Temps in the 60’s, with winds that started light but filled in nicely as the day wore on. Tuesday is the “easy” day of the convention, the lack of formal events leaves lots of time for seeing old friends and flying for fun.

On tonight’s schedule are the Pin Challenge and the AKA General meeting. We will have another report tomorrow night.

One last note, as I write this, Phil Broder is putting on a wig, sports bra and soccer cleats….. hmmmmm. Could be an interesting Pin Challenge.

by Phil Broder

Is it Wednesday? I missed South Park, which is my only reference point most of the time.

Began on the field at 8 a.m., cajoling flyers to get ready for the arrival of the CBS crew. There were lots of kites in the air, and they filmed four 3-minute segments, featuring the Windjammers, genkis, the Ritter and Sedgwick Rev Stack show, miniature kites, and lots of miscellaneous background stuff. Congrats to media whore Angie Chau, who set it up.

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Today I met Washingtonian Mark Schmitt, who came in from Seattle for 36 hours just to fly in NIP and NIB. Gotta respect the enthusiasm. Unfortunately, Mark didn’t know the rules, and wrecked a great set of precision figures with a disaster in freestyle. Another rulebook problem DQ’ed a flyer in IIB. The moral: as a flyer, it’s your job to know the rulebook.

While this happened, a 399 kite arch rose over the field. I only saw the first day of comprehensive competition from a distance, but there were a lot of cool kites in the sky. One that sticks in my mind was a UFO, made of a flat disc (a Frisbee with the middle cut out) and a barrel shaped center. I’ve never seen anything remotely like it.

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The Sport Kite Symposium was dominated by debate of indoor flying rules, and whether to eliminate one class of flyers in order to speed up events. It probably kept going, but dinner called and I bailed.

Tomorrow I compete in MIP, which I only found out today I’d be doing. Nothing like advance warning. I’ll sleep with the rulebook under my pillow, to soak up the figures by osmosis. I’ve also got a train of roks to enter in comprehensive, my first foray into that venue.

Final thought: my sports bra salute to Brandi Chastain last night was topped tonight by drag appearances from Jordan, Jensen, and Skinner. What can I say? I’m a trendsetter.

by Mike Gillard

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Today’s weather: Bright blue skies, afternoon temps in the 70’s, and there was wind. Not always steady, but at least it was there for the whole day. Another great sky full of kites, with today’s mass ascension being for roks and fighters. Awesome spectacle.

Kitemaking comps continued today, lots of innovative stuff. The fighter folks held their Novice comps today, and I’ve never heard so many happy squeals from a flying field in my life. Nelson Borelli and crew are doing a super job in promoting these fun little kites.

Sportkite comps for Masters and Experienced fliers are still running as we speak. The Masters Team Precision event saw Visual Impact fly a super-complex routine, Chicago Fire flying a super-precise routine to great effect. Lots of other great performances in all disciplines, more on that later.

Well, it’s Fly Market time. I have to go find that kite that I just can’t live without.

by Phil Broder

Here I am in the Kitelife.com Mobile Production Unit (Mike’s new mobile home) while it pours outside. I can’t see the other side of the field, but they’re about to start Master’s Team Ballet anyways. Hey, it’s Nationals.

The Convention is all about stories. Here are a few…

Ron Gibian picked up a van-load of Japanese visitors, then drove out to the stunt kite field to pick up Ron Despojado. Ron G. asked Ron D. if he wanted a ride back to the hotel. Ron D. said, “You mean right now?” Ron G. smartly replied, “No, next week.” Despojado promptly mooned Gibian (remember, the van has dark windows. You can see this coming…). Despojado wrapped up his kite, opened the van doors, and found all the Japanese applauding.

Plumbing problems seem to be rampant. One flyer was sitting on the toilet when it broke in half and fell over. I’m assuming things were messy.

Pete Dolphin is telling everyone who’ll listen about how great sex after 50 is. Most of us don’t want to know.

Last night we were standing outside our motel room at about 1 a.m., talking rather loudly about stuff, when Nelson Borelli comes wandering by. Apparently, someone complained about us to the front desk, so the desk clerk called several rooms to get confirmation of the disturbance. The clerk asked Nelson if he could hear voices outside. Nelson answered, “Now that you woke me up, yes, I can.”

Those of you who skip Board meetings don’t get to see the vein on Chuck Sigal’s forehead start pulsing whenever we get too far away from Robert’s Rules of Order.

One problem the AKA has is that for a $25 membership, you receive $30 of benefits. Yup, we lose $5 per person. So how to make up a $10,000 budget shortfall? David Gomberg proposed that we should just ask 2000 members to quit. Apparently Frank Kenisky, whose membership recently expired, is the first.

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Drew Davidson is working on a new innovative routine. He’ll replace his arrow nocks with razorsharp arrowheads, then release puppies onto the field. Tip stab, tip stab… you get the idea. (In all fairness to Drew, he was a little drunk and totally joking; do not alert the Humane Society!)

By now you’ve seen the pictures of the buggiers in drag. This morning’s newspaper had a front page article that referred to “helmeted men inexplicably wearing their grandmothers’s best church dresses….”

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Lots of buzz in the Fly Market about the return of Ken McNeill with the new Blue Moon Kites. Ken had a sample out, was using his computer to demonstrate color patterns, and had a crowd around him all night. This followup to the AirFX looks sweet. Likewise, Steve LaPorte seemed to be doing alright with his new quadline, which looks like a cross between a Rev2 and a Joel Scholz Beautiful Evil. And for just $275, everyone needs a Ron Gibian banner.

With all due respect to Marieanne Trennopohl, Susie Skinner, Dorothy Wagner, and Tanna Haynes, Berry Braiding’s Amy Flesher has leaped into the frontrunner position for “Kite Babe of the Year.” (Hey, you think I’m here just to fly kites?)

Note to family and friends: I finished 9th in Masters Precision, which is cool but still doesn’t get me out of midterm exams in three days.

Auction tonight, then I’ll be back for one last report.


The Best AKA Convention In Years
Final AKA Convention Update

by Phil Broder

This is how it ends, not with a bang, but with a low-lying fog.

Mike has already commented on the auction, but some other highlights…

The buxom young Michele McAlister from the Muncie Visitors Bureau wrapping herself all over Charlie “I Need Some Viagra, Quick!” Henderson in an effort to cut off bidding on a Sotich miniature.
The cheer from the cashier’s table when Scott Skinner’s $3700 credit card purchase was approved.
Jerry Houk bought one of the “No Kite Flying” signs stolen from a New York City park.
Lee Sedgwick bought a hang glider for $80, but made us all promise not to tell Sue.
Rumor has it that the Maryland Kite Society, proud owners of the Dean Jordan “Star Farker”, plan to print up trading cards for it.
Auction coordinator Al Sparling earned the AKA more than $28,000 then sold another $2000 worth of raffle tickets for a giant flowform and spinsock, which he then won.

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Has anyone mentioned the Kite Art Gallery? Way to go Glenn Davison for the incredible display of miniatures. Coolest were the motorized rotary kiteflyers, which kept kites flying around the room all the time. I want one for my living room, just to exercise my dog.

The banquet on Saturday was one of the best I can recall, mostly thanks to the snappy patter of MC Gomberg. No long-winded stories, no excessive changing of speakers, it just kept rolling along. Mike Gillard won’t toot his own horn, but the slide show during cocktail hour was great, and the awards presentation graphics were perfect. And as the winner of a kitemaking trophy (my first ever!), not only did I get a trophy, but I also got to kiss Tanna Haynes and Karen Burkhardt. If that’s the prize next year, I’m buying ripstop and a hot knife tomorrow!

Overall impression: why should we ever have the convention anywhere else? We set new attendance and auction records, the fields were massive, the winds were pretty good, the food was great, the prices were low, and you don’t have to shake the sand out of your gear when you get home? The next available date for a midwestern convention is 2006, and we need to strongly consider Muncie again. The other great thing was the number of newbies who came. I was glad to see a lot of my M2S2 brethren at their first convention, smiling and winning trophies. Likewise, we picked up several new members during the week, including the aforementioned Michele McAlister, who is now a total miniature kite junkie.

See y’all in Florida next year (and oh yes, there’s a good hotel that caters to dog owners in Treasure Island, so Lake will be attending his first convention!).

Closing comments
by Mike Gillard

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What a great week! In no particular order, here are some thoughts and observations on the Muncie Nationals.

- The Auction was amazing, featuring spirited bidding on a great variety of cool stuff. The rec.kites arch was again auctioned in segments, netting over $3,000! Terry Sansom, the instigator and organizer of the Arch Project was awarded the "Volunteer Of The Year" award by Richard Dermer, AKA Prez. Well done, Terry and arch contributors! Hunter Brown donated a really cool lighthouse kite, little did he know the stir that it would make at the auction. Wild bidding drove the price to dizzying heights, with Scott Skinner finally winning the kite with a bid of $3,500. Wow.

- Muncie welcomed the AKA with open arms. Publicity was wonderful, the Wed. paper had half the front page covered with pics and a story on the convention. Too bad that the rotten Fri/Sat weather killed the crowd. There were numerous locals that came to the convention center to see the indoor fly (with slackjawed amazement!) and the Fly Market. They want us back! The AMA spoke to several of us, expressing interest in us staging a kite festival there next year.

- There were a few minor slipups ( I heard a rumor of several fliers waiting 2 hours for a shuttle bus on Friday), but the organizers did a terrific job overall. The food, facilities, and overall level of execution were nothing short of excellent in my opinion.

- The sportkite comps were some of the most heated in recent memory. Several fliers were surprised at their victories... Scott Weider in Masters Quad Ballet upset Lam Hoac and Ron Despojado! Aerial Assault, the Canadian pairs team, were disappointed in their performance, but obviously the judges weren't, as they took the nod. The Chicago Fire continue to find a way to win, as they swept the Masters Team events over the early favorite, Visual Impact; and Capt. Eddie's Flying Circus, in their last competition appearance.

- US competitors for the upcoming Sportkite World Championships in Malaysia were decided. Here is my best guess at the North American invitees:

Indiv. Dual Line: Bob Hurd, Rich Javens, and Miguel Rodriguez
Indiv. Quadline: Scott Weider, Lam Hoac, Ron Despojado
Pairs: Aerial Assault, Papalotes, Avispados
Team: Chicago Fire, Visual Impact

- One of the flat-out coolest things I have ever seen on a flying field was the "Past Masters Challenge" on Saturday afternoon. This event saw retired champions showcasing their routines from bygone times, and brought a lump to many throats. Hats off to organizer Troy Gunn, and fliers Vern Balodis, Brian Vanderslice, Sue Sedgewick, Darrin Skinner, Eric Wolff, Dean Jordan, Jon Trennepohl, Ron Reich, Lee Sedgewick, and Ray Bethell for providing a wonderful show.

Competition results are available at the AKA website.

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Phil Broder

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