Big differences in big shows
After being in the hobby almost seven years and focusing on three different military time periods, I have been exposed to various aspects of the hobby. Granted, my observations have been at a distance when it comes to the two largest "fan" conventions in the 1/6 hobby.
Those two big shows are A Weekend of Heroes and Dragon Expo. The first show A Weekend of Heroes (WOH) is the older of the two conventions and shows no particular allegiance to any of the product manufacturer companies, although Toy Soldier has a very strong presence at the show. This particular show is held in California each year in the greater Los Angeles area. The best thing about this show might be that it has no exclusive deal with any single manufacturer and therefore represents more to a wider audience. However, it must be noted, the show has expanded to include the airsoft and reenactor hobbies as well. This is most likely a result of making certain the show is financially viable. There is a great deal of overlap between the hobbyists in all of these pastimes.
WOH also leads the way in booking great guests, particularly those individuals who have distinguished themselves on the field of battle. This year special guests included two Vietnam veterans: John Stryker "Tilt" Meyer, a member of the famous MACV SOG special operations organization in Vietnam, and COL Paul Longgrear, an Army Special Forces trooper and defender of the command bunker during the battle of the Lang Vei Special Forces Camp during the height of the Tet Offensive.
The WOH show is organized by a third party not directly affiliated with any of the manufacturers. John Lu is the driving force behind WOH and has done a remarkable job under sometimes difficult circumstances.
The other show is completely run by Dragon Models, Ltd. The best thing about this particular show is that it has made attempts to make the show more accessible by holding shows outside California. The 2005 show was held in Atlanta and this year it is being held in Virginia Beach. For that alone, I applaud DML's efforts. They also run a professional show and make available some really exciting exclusive kits for those attending the show.
They have also an effort to have special guests at the show and some have been of the international flavor. Like DML's 1/6 products, the show is heavily slanted to the World War II era. I focused exclusively on this era for several years, but now that I am focused on the Vietnam era, I am not as familiar with the offerings of DXPO '08. I couldn't find any references to VIP guests on the site. Their show exclusives are usually tributes to living war heroes who also attend the show as VIPs. They do have such exclusives, but do not mention either StuG commander Bodo Spranz or Luftwaffe ace Willi Reshcke attending the show. I cannot even confirm if either is still alive. One cannot really criticize DML for not having VIPs at this year's show as the pool of living World War II heroes shrinks dramatically everyday as virtually all veterans are in their 80s or older. Even Germany's Hitler Youth are most likely in their late 70s.
The talk of this year's show is the 1/6 functional version of the famous US M151 MUTT "Jeep" as its traditional large vehicle offering. If I recall correctly, this is the first such offering of an Allied vehicle. The show also offers a tribute to US Army General Omar Bradley. That choice is curious as DML has already produced a Bradley figure. I am not sure if this is a licensing issue with the families or not, but there are certainly some other worthy US military leaders worthy of 1/6 tributes. DML has done two US WWII generals, Bradley and four different George Patton figures. If your exposure to WWII is limited to the movie featuring Academy Award Winner George C. Scott and Karl Malden as Bradley, then that's all you need I guess. These were certainly the most celebrated of the field commanders from the United States. A tribute to Dwight Eisenhower, Bernhard Montgomery, James Gavin, Matthew Ridgway, Douglas MacArthur or Chester Nimitz would certainly be in order.
You'll note I didn't mention Maxwell Taylor... well that was on purpose. Because 101st Division Commander Taylor left his troops in the field at the Battle of the Bulge to attend a stateside conference tarnishes his career in the minds of some. His troops certainly took a dim view of this event. I think deputy commander Gen. Anthony McAullife, who assumed command of the 101st during the battle, is worthy of mention as well. His famous response of "Nuts" to a surrender request by German commander Heinrich Freiherr von Lüttwitz is legendary. Taylor's political involvement in the Vietnam War is also looked upon with some skepticism by his critics. His appointment by John Kennedy to the newly created post of Military Representative to the President was seen as an attempt by the Kennedy administration to circumvent and diminish the authority and role of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. But I digress...
Both shows are worthy of the hobby, although DML certainly draws stark criticism from many hobbyists for its demonstrated penchant for producing World War II figures, the vast majority being Germans. However, if you are a WWII era hobbyists, this show can be Nirvana.
I frankly get concerned with each passing WOH that it will be the last. Without major sponsorship dollars and the exit of Blue Box Toys in the 1/6 market, it can't be easy to cobble together the money to plan and conduct the show with smaller companies like Toy Soldier.
Thankfully, there is something out there for modern collectors and World War II collectors. Both have their positives and negatives, but depending on your collecting and hobby proclivities, one or the other should be right for you.