The MagiFest in Columbus, Ohio missed the wrecking ball after several decades of successful conventions and great management. The MagiFest was always considered the first major convention of the year drawing well over 500 peoply annually who would brave the traditionally frigid environs of the Midwest winters. Registrants traveled from around the region and talent was drawn from across the globe to make the MagiFest one of the premier conventions on the scene.
But after Jep Hostetler turned over the reigns of management to Ron Spangler, it appeared to be more than the new organizers were equipped to handle. Although last year's convention was a financial success, they kind of looked around the room and everyone agreed that perhaps they should let it go.
Joshua Jay was one of the hundreds of magicians who grew up attending the MagiFest and learned to love and appreciate magic. He saw some of the best talent in the world and learned from them. He and business partner, Andi Gladwin from the U.K. teamed up to organize "The Session", a close-up convention in England. Buoyed from the success of that convention, they felt that the MagiFest was too important to let die. Moreover, they thought if the MagiFest is to survive well into the future, it was time to take it in a new direction with some traditional things for the "regulars" plus have an appeal to the younger set of "up and comers"...just like Joshua was.
The first day allowed the registrants to squeeze into the small Dealers' Room for a chance to get the latest and greatest...and indeed, they had it all. I have never seen such a feeding frenzy; however, it reminded me of The Magic Circle Centenary cramped Dealers' Room many years ago that had us all packed in like sardines. At least this Dealers' Room had air conditioning, though it wasn't necessary since it was 12 degrees outside.
The registrants were split into two groups one of which saw Simon Lovell's one man show "Strange and Unusual Hobbies" that he has presented off Broadway in New York for eight years while the other room Scott Robinson hosted the other group with a workshop.
Before anything started and while the corridor was filled with anxious shoppers with time on their hands and money in their pockets and awaiting the opening of the Dealers' Room, I stopped long-time attendee (and local restaurant magician) Carroll Baker who talked about the demise of the Red Coats (the former organizers of the MagiFest) and John Sturk from Chicago and this being his first MagiFest. Steve Bryant (editor of "The Little Egypt Gazette") also said hello.
For "Magic and Martini Thursday" (see Facebook to join us each week for a virtual martini) we went into the bar for a real treat with Jania Taylor, John Archer and Simon Lovell. This may be one of the best and most fun (and funniest) interviews I have recorded on The Magic Word at conventions. I think I was able to bleep out all the potentially offensive language, but it wasn't easy. :)