On March 8th, Paul Revere raced through the internet crying "The British are leaving! The British are leaving!" in reference to the Montreal audio show, scheduled to open eleven days hence. While this cry perked up the ears of French Separatists throughout Quebec, Sarah Tremblay and Michel Plante sprang into action, refusing to let the event be cancelled. The next day I received a communique informing me that Sarah was rallying support to keep the show alive this year and she was hoping I would be able to find a way to cover it again as I have since the mid-1990's. Tradition dies hard. "Meet the new boss; same as the old boss" was the battle cry. Sarah and Michel were the driving force for the show before the British company took it over two years ago.
With the echo of Fess Parker singing the "Ballad of Davy Crockett" in my head, I put on my father's vintage trappers' hat made of French rabbit fur to facilitate the border crossing. Like in the Good Old Days, I had my sleeping bag tucked behind the driver's seat and a six pack of Mt. Dew to keep me hydrated and awake. I pointed the Hotel Tracker north toward the Hotel Bonaventure, where the show has been held for the past few years. This might well be the last time at this venue since support for the show has dwindled in recent years and it will be necessary to re-format the concept. (More on that at the end of the report.) The growth of the AXPONA show in Chicago and the Munich HIGH END show in Germany has drained away significant support from many major manufacturers in the industry, leaving primarily distributors and local retailers to wave the flag. (More on this, too, at the end of the report.)
The trip up to the northeast corner of New York State was reminiscent of the late 1990s and early 2000s, camping overnight in the Hotel Tracker in single digit temperatures, but without the massive amounts of snow. My 1973 vintage Sierra Designs goose down sleeping bag was thankfully supplemented with the thick down comforter off our bed at home. The traditional breakfast at McDonalds woke me up before the uneventful border crossing and coffee stayed warm during the one hour drive north to Montreal. I parked the Tracker deep in the catacombs of the Bonaventure Center and took the elevators up to the hotel on the roof.
Since the show was free to the public, there was no desk to purchase tickets and no lovely ladies in blue hair to welcome us. Outside the pool looked inviting under the sunny skies, but the hotel inside was a mess. A major re-location of the front desk was in progress, as well as renovation of the first floor. Drywall was abundant, though an effort to decorate with pictures helped a little. The carpet was either very avant garde or semi-destroyed by the construction efforts. As of late morning on Saturday, there were no numbers on the rooms, much less signage informing visitors of what was inside. The good news was that the rooms and the immediate hallways were packed with attendees.
The main corridors were more easily navigated and had some evidence of the show going on, as well as a couple of tables promoting Canadian print publications.