Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Vent Haven Convention 2009 - From My Perspective

Well, the 33rd Vent Haven ventriloquist convention took place July 15th - July 18th and I have to say this was probably the best one I've ever attended over the course of the past 28 years when I've gone.

I certainly remember my first convention in 1981. I think I was like a lot of first time attendees. I kind of stayed in the background, didn't approach any of the "stars" of the day. I attended every lecture and show during the event. And I drooled over all of the vent figures in the dealer's room.

I remember Jeff Dunham, Jimmy Nelson, Bill DeMar, Bill Boley, Mark Wade, Alan Semok and Johnny Main were there that year. I was afraid to talk to any of them, except for Jeff, and we only spoke briefly. He was probably 17 then and I knew he was going to be a huge success someday, just from watching him perform on the Saturday night show that year.

Here is the group photo from 1981. Recognize anyone?

Click to enlarge

During the down times between scheduled activities, I really kept to myself and didn't make a lot of friends that first year.

Fast forward to this year. Going to the convention now is more like an annual family reunion and homecoming to me. It's a chance to visit with old friends and make new ones.

I know how valuable the workshops and lectures are for new people attending and for those who want to focus in on growing in their performing abilities.

However, I personally spend a great deal of my time at the convention visiting with the friends I've met over the years.

What made this year special for me was not only seeing my long-time friends (like Tom Ladshaw, Jeff, Bill DeMar, Bob Isaacson, Mark Wade, Dan Horn, Pete Michaels, Ken Groves and too many more to mention), but meeting a lot of people from the WorldVents email list, some of my customers, as well as some of the pros that I have never seen at a convention.

I have been a big Jay Johnson fan since I first saw him on ABC television's sitcom "Soap" in 1977.

This July I finally had the opportunity to meet him and get to know him a bit. Seeing him perform a portion of his Broadway hit "The Two and Only" stage show was a real treat.

I also met Kevin Johnson, who was one of the contestants on America's Got Talent and also appeared on Ventriloquist Week with David Letterman. He performed on the Saturday night All-Star show and is a great talent.

Other full-time pros I finally had the chance to meet included Brad Cummings (who also appeared on Dave Letterman's Ventriloquist Week), Las Vegas legend Sammy King, Nina Conti and Sylvia Fletcher.

with Brad Cummings

with Sammy King

with Nina Conti

with Sylvia Fletcher

I spent a lot of time during lunches, dinner and at my dealer's table listening to and learning about the careers of these performers.

There are a lot more photos of the convention on my website here:

I was so busy talking with so many people this year, that I didn't even make it over to the museum.

Even though I personally don't go to a lot of the workshops anymore, there certainly was a wide range of lectures available again this year.

Some of the topics included creativity, marketing, working fairs, adding punch to your comedy and a "clinic" for kid show performers. Plus 3 shows, panel discussions, the annual raffle and a lot more.

I still claim that the nearly 4 day convention is one of the best values in the entertainment industry as far as content for the money invested.

If you've never attended a convention, you really need to go. Most people who attend once return year after year.

I know I'll be back next year.

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