I go to a fair number of pipe shows, and each one has its own personality. This weekend I’ll be going to Raleigh, NC for the T.A.P.S. Expo which is held at the state fairgrounds. I really enjoy this show for a few reasons.
The friendly, laid-back atmosphere – The venue isn’t very large, but unlike some shows, there’s plenty of natural light in the room. But the pace of the show is different. People seem to take a little more time to chat and ask questions, which is fun for me. The club members are accommodating to a fault. It’s obvious that they appreciate the vendors because they have coffee on hand, and vendors get a free lunch. Many of the attendees are friends, so I enjoy reconnecting with people, and the mood is always pleasant and upbeat.
Seeing the influx of youth in our hobby – This show, more so than any other, has a good proportion of younger pipe smokers. I would assume that many of them are college students from the Triangle Area universities. These newer brothers and sisters of the leaf make shows a lot of fun because they’re so inquisitive. I love being able to pass on advice to people who are starting out, and they tend to be less caught up in status (not too many twenty-somethings are smoking Dunhills) and are more about substance.
Being steeped in the history of the business – North Carolina has long been one of the hubs of the American tobacco business, from growing to manufacturing. Even if that isn’t in evidence at the show itself, the sense of history is palpable. My friendship with Mark Ryan of Daughters & Ryan adds to that sense, as I always take time to spend a day or two with him at his facility, and Mark has such a talent for bringing in premium quality tobaccos that I really enjoy looking at what he’s found recently.
It’s about an eight-hour drive for me to get there, but I enjoy the area so much that I’d rather take the time to soak in the scenery. Sometimes life moves so fast that I look forward to an opportunity to conduct business in a more leisurely fashion with people whose company I truly enjoy. If you going to be at the show yourself, stop by and say hi.