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See You at Reef-A-Palooza 2011

With a new website and new attractions for attendees, Reef-A-Palooza 2011 looks to best its own record-setting attendance from 2010.

By Clay Jackson |

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Reef-A-Palooza 2010
People wait in line to get into Reef-A-Palooza 2010.

Felicity Kendal, an English actress, is credited with first saying: “Success breeds success…”  The annual reefkeeping gathering known as Reef-A-Palooza (RAP) represents a real-world materialization of this notion in spades.

The brainchild of Marc Trimble, president of the Southern California Marine Aquarium Society (SCMAS) from 1994 to 2006, Reef-A-Palooza began as a backyard frag swap with a barbeque, finger foods, folding chairs and a few dozen hobbyists. From this humble beginning, RAP has grown up to become the most popular marine aquarium show in the United States. In 2010, Reef-A-Palooza saw more than 3,200 visitors over two days.

People love to use benchmarks to gauge growth, progress and accomplishment. Pen or pencil marks on a doorjamb track a child’s road to physical maturity. A resume captures on paper someone’s career trajectory. One popular benchmarking tool is a simple line graph with X and Y axes. Such a tool amply depicts Reef-A-Palooza’s explosive growth.

One of the secrets to any successful venture is consistency. For the last several years, Reef-A-Palooza (RAP) has occurred every year during the third weekend in October (this year’s RAP takes place Oct. 22 and 23) at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, California. Reef-A-Palooza 2011 will be held for the second time at the newly built, modern-looking and spacious “hangar” building.

Another aspect of any successful event is to not rest on your laurels but to build on past successes. Trim the fat, yes, but continue to tweak the model and add value for attendees. And this is exactly what’s being done, with RAP 2011 offering several new surprises for reefkeepers.

Besides being a SCMAS member, I am also involved in the monthly RAP steering committee meetings. These monthly meetings begin a few months after the dust has settled on the previous year’s RAP. One of the new goings-on is a brand-new RAP website: The new site has an interactive floor plan of this year’s RAP, which allows vendors to click and pick where they want to set up shop when they arrive at RAP.

At the 2010 RAP, SCMAS volunteer and fellow steering committee member Greg Fryling conducted some very popular coral fragging workshops. There were U-shaped lines, several deep, crowded around him for each workshop. For those Johnny-come-latelies toward the back, seeing and hearing Fryling was difficult at best. To remedy this, this year’s workshops (coral fragging, glass drilling and aquascaping) will take place on a riser in the center of the hangar building. Anyone wishing to attend a workshop this time, can comfortably sit in one of the many folding chairs that will be provided. Those conducting workshops will have what they are doing projected onto a screen behind them. Everyone should be able to see, hear and learn at this year’s Reef-A-Palooza workshops.

Another new thing this year is a live painting exhibition by artist Karen Talbot; Talbot is tentatively scheduled to bring her art supplies and paint, from start to finish, one of her piscine masterpieces. Reef-A-Palooza attendees will be able to gauge Talbot’s progress, from the first brush stroke to her signing the finished canvas. If that weren’t enough, Talbot has graciously agreed to donate her finished work to the RAP auction for a one-of-a-kind prize. Also new this year, kids of all ages will be able to interact with a lot of sea creatures in a marine touch tank, provided by the Aquarium of the Pacific out of Long Beach, California.

Reef-A-Palooza is always a great place to catch up with old friends, meet new ones, check out the newest in corals, as well as technological breakthroughs — and this year promises to be no different.

“I never once thought it was possible for Reef-A-Palooza to go from a backyard frag swap to the largest marine aquarium event in the country,” said SCMAS President Greg Carroll. But it has. The goal is to get 5,000 enthusiasts through the doors this year. If you visit RAP 2011, we’ll only need 4,999 more to hit our goal. Be a part of reefkeeping history; be a part of RAP 2011.

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Drew    Lubbock, TX

10/6/2011 9:55:11 PM

Definitly wished i lived in southern cali.

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