For those of you who aren’t familiar with the “pipe show scene”, the Chicago one (actually in St. Charles, IL) is the largest of them all, and is the only one that has a significant international presence. If you want to the see some of the “Great Danes” such as Nanna and Lars Ivarsson, this is the one to go to. (And if you want to buy one of their pipes, you should have several thousands of dollars handy.) The flip side of that coin is that it is also the busiest and “business-iest” of all the shows. As a case in point: even though the show is Saturday and Sunday, when we arrived on Thursday afternoon, Ernie Markle had already sold half of his pipes. If you’re a collector or have a serious case of PAD, you need to get there early because many of the vendors and pipemakers have been selling pipes out of their rooms and smoking tent since Tuesday and at the Friday “pre-show”; wait until Saturday morning when the show formally begins and you’ll see tables already with “Sold Out” signs and empty tables. But that’s Chicago.
Michael Parks, Jack and I traveled down by car together and met 6 other DTPC members of past and present. For a pipe-maker like Parks, this show is about work and connections. He brought down about 15 pipes, but 12 of those were commissions that he was bringing down to give to his customers. He’ll end up spending much of the show meeting with them and building on those connections. That invariably brings more work. And since this is a big industry event, it’s also an opportunity to pick up additional briar blocks and acrylic rods – and possibly even look at what the competition is up to.
For me, the show is definitely about the people. As much as I love pipes, the reason I started a pipe club is to meet and hear from other pipe smokers. So even though I spent hours walking the show floor, I felt happiest when having a chance to hang out with old friends and make new ones. (Listening to veterans Fred Hanna and Tad Gage swap stories and razz each other was a particular highlight.) The more shows I go to, the more I’m also drawn to the pipe carvers that I’ve begun to develop personal connections with and my collection has begun to reflect that.
To cap off my show report, I’ve included a few pictures. (Our DTPC logo was so popular we probably could have sold t-shirts at the show!)