I like model contests and shows. I go to them all the time and I had plans to attend a few in 2020. We all know what happened to those shows. If you remember, there were some hold outs in the spring. Some announced a postponement instead of cancellation. Breath was held and fingers were crossed. Everyone hoped for a turnaround later in the year. Eventually, and with good reason, it seems everyone cancelled their show in 2020.
Everyone except one:
The Wright Field Scale Modelers initially scheduled an in-person contest for April 2020 which was postponed to the fall. However, the organizers ultimately decided to hold this contest as a virtual event that was held on November 13-14, 2020.
I attended the 2019 Contest and I had a great weekend taking in the models, shopping in the vendor room and touring the USAF Museum. I wanted to go back and if going back meant a virtual experience, well, so be it.
How does a Virtual Contest Work?
I am not an expert in putting together any sort of event but I believe it starts with putting together a solid team of dedicated volunteers, solid rules and solid communication such as a website.
Wrightcon 2020 had clear rules and clear process on its webpage. There was a simple registration form and once that was completed, participants could enter as many models as they wished.
Since this was a virtual event so judges needed to rely on photos. The Wrightcon organizers must have thought long and hard about how best to approach it. The obvious concerns were likely related to whether this would be seen as a ‘photography contest’ vs a ‘model contest’ and/or whether things like alignment, level and general build quality could be determined through digital photographs.
The organizers went with the following format: the standard entry form and a requisite 6 photos (direct front, back, left side, right side, top down and oblique). Participants could include an additional 2 photographs of the model. These pictures were directly uploaded onto the contest page and participants could view a ‘virtual contest room’ to see all of the entries. Models had to be entered at least a week before the weekend of the contest so that the judges could get a week to judge.
Those who wished to have an award mailed to them paid a higher entry fee, otherwise the lower priced entry fee would be for ‘online recognition only.’ However, the ‘award option’ was not open to participants from outside of the USA.
Seminars and a Vendor Room
This contest featured three seminars in addition to a vendor room. There were a couple of seminars on model finishing but the one I really wanted to attend was the seminar on the operations of the SR-71. Unfortunately, I had some last minute scheduling issues so I had to miss it. I was not happy about that because I think the SR-71 is incredibly cool.
Things that caught my eye:
Normally I put a collage of finished model goodness in this part. However, as this was a virtual event, I couldn’t take pictures of the entries. If you navigate over to this site, you can see the big award winners. If you click this site, you can see all of the entries. Actually, you can see all 6+ pictures for each entry! There are a lot of excellent builds and these ones caught my eye:
- 1/32 DH9 ‘NINAK’: The paint, finish and rigging are as good as it gets
- 1/72 Seafire: I can’t put my finger on it but this one really impressed me
- 1/48 Skyray: I never see these so it is novel. However, everything just works on this one
- 1/48 Meteor: The BMF is one of the best I’ve seen
- 1/32 F-100: Foil finish…again, one of the best I’ve seen
- 1/35 USA Maintenance Hoist Truck: Very well built and weathered
I’ve been pretty much tethered to the house since mid-March. I did a few more models than I usually do so I had a few I wanted to show at the contest:
The judges were very kind to me: Miss Virginia and the Kamikaze got first place in their categories while the Tony and my big Nick got seconds in theirs.
A model contest is far more than placing models on a table. For me it is a day long vacation from some of the more challenging areas of my life. I usually go with friends and the model contest is a chance to hang out with like minded individuals and see what everyone has been up to. It is the odd time when I don’t see something that inspires me to try a new model or technique. Sometimes I see a clever way of solving a building or finishing problem. I always have a good time.
While I am glad I was able to participate in one contest and see other models this year, I am hoping this will be more of a novelty tied to 2020-2021 and not the “new normal” as some like to say. A virtual contest cannot completely replace the in-person one but it is an excellent substitute to not having any contest at all.
My hat is off to the Wrightcon organizers and judges. I believe they did an excellent job and I think they are due for some sort of recognition by IPMS USA for this effort. I also urge anyone thinking of a spring contest to contact the Wrightcon organizers, even if it is just for contingency planning.