I mentioned in an earlier post that, while I go to all these shows to see bonsai trees and related material, I derive a great deal of enjoyment from some of the people that I have met over the years. So let me tell you about my people-watching last weekend.
I can't go on enough about the number of people that were there on the Saturday. I believe the total show attendance was 3,500 people, the bulk of which were there for the opening. The good bit about the queue was that we were forced to go exploring around the neighbourhood (no way was I queueing for hours in the cold. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt). Found a great wine and beer merchant that also had an impressive stock of liquor. More Japanese, Irish and Scottish whiskies than I have ever seen under the same roof, even taking into account the big boys in Calais.
This year at the Noelanders Trophy, I was privileged enough to grill Marc Noelanders on the logistics of and his plans for the future of the show. As with the UK, the cost of hiring a hall is very high in Belgium. And an impressive amount of work - and expense - go into producing a show of this level. Set-up starts several days before the show and tear-down goes on until the Monday after closing. The expense they rack up is rather gob-smacking but I guess it does show in the end result. I've heard lots of people clamour for a big national show in the UK but I wonder if, when it comes down to it, they would be willing to put up the same amount of commitment, effort... and money.
The Noelanders show takes over the 2 levels of the Cultural Centre in Zolder, Belgium. The top level is the auditorium where the demos take place (which I totally missed this year), and a sales area. Most traders have the same spot year on year, so I just tend to make a beeline for the same people as soon as we clear the doors. But sorry, no photos this time of Walsall Studio Ceramics, Harukaze, Bryan Albright or Klika (to name but a few). TOH and I got caught up for over an hour-and-a-half just saying hello and catching up with bonsai acquaintances. At one point I did wonder if we would even make it to the cafe (also on the same floor) for my regular mid-morning caffeine fix; well, lunchtime actually. The crowd was so dense 4 of us were jammed between sales tables as we tried to make conversation and buyers tried to get a better look at either Walsall's pots or the huge yamadori specimens next to them. Very good of the traders not to mind, really.
Downstairs (when we eventually got there) has two sales areas, a cafeteria, a photography area and the exhibition hall.
I think Mario is best known for a chuuhin Red Pine that was entered in the Kokofu-ten and was also featured in Bonsai Focus. If you ever get a chance, try to catch one of his talks; I attended one at EBA 2009 and thought it was very well put together as he takes you through the development of a tree. Q&A sessions in English can also be rather lively as he has a good command of the language. Mario told us about a bonsai show coming up in Poland sometime in May, I think, at Castle Książ. So if you've got time on your hands and bonsai on your mind, Poland is always worth a visit, especially for the food....
And this here is not a person, but I thought you'd like it anyway. I believe this is one of Marc Noelanders' trees - a pine in what I think is an Isabelia pot. This wasn't an official show entry as it was completely unlabelled (hence the conjecture). Last year he had a similar one, much smaller and tucked away in a little corner; if I recall correctly it was a Juniper, which was what inspired me to try something similar with this rose. As you can see, absolutely no comparison! But give it a few decades.... :D