(This is going to be a long one folks, so grab a cuppa, light up whatever, get comfy and enjoy my grandiloquent grandiosity!)
I have a one car family and as a result of personal schedules and other whatnots, Karen was unable to attend. Husbands will appreciate that this meant that the car remained at home, which of necessity meant that I ended up taking buses, trains and automobiles on a ten+ hour journey from my home adjacent to paintball’s birthplace in New Hampshire out to another historical venue – Three Rivers Survival Game field, hard on the shoulders of Pittsburgh, PA.
I hooked up with Kevin Donaldson and Chris ‘Doobie’ Dubois of the Master Blasters for the drive out; fortunately they actually picked me up at the train station in Jersey that they’d told me to get off at – (hey, with those guys you’re always wondering….). The Blasters were entering two teams into Tommy Cole’s Ultimate Woodsball League event and, among many other duties, I was along to take pictures of my team in action.
The drive out was long and very negatively affected by construction on Route 80 (America’s Longest Hiway); instead of arriving late Thursday evening or early-early-early Friday morning, we didn’t get out to the site of the Business Conference until around noon Friday.
On the other hand, it did give Doobie, Donaldson and Davidson plenty of time to formulate the ultimate take-over of the industry, which plan has now been fine-tuned to a razor’s edge, dotted and crossed and detailed to the nth degree. Industry Peeps – we’ll be talkin to ya.
After checking in we all put in an appearance at the Business Conference where Gio of SC Village (and other killer paintball venues), Debra Dion, host of the event and Tom Cole (UWL, formerly sales for Kingman and now ‘something-something’ for PALCO, the airsoft manufacturer and distributor) were laying out the future regarding paintball and airsoft.
Which prompts me to suggest that you take a break from the narrative at this point and skip on over to some words on the airsoft-paintball thing, of which I have been very critical over the past several months. If you care to read about it, check out this piece, then come on back for the rest of the low-down.
To continue with the festival reportage –
Rather than jumping into the meeting and disrupting the proceedings, we remained in the lobby area outside the meeting rooms and, after waving at Deb & Tom through the door, we all sat back and ambushed folks who were taking a bathroom break. (Hint: talk to them AFTER they’ve gone to the toitie, not before). Utilizing this method, we were privileged to say hello to and chat up such attending luminaries as John Dresser of PBN, John Amodea of Paintball X3, his wife Brenda, Jessica Sparks, Josh Silverman & Jennifer, Jim Lively, Tom Kaye and of course, the guest of honor, Bob Gurnsey.
‘Gurns’ is looking pretty good, was thrilled to be at the event and was eating up a lot of heart-felt attention from everyone. A visit by one of the founder’s of our sport (especially one who is having health issues) really gave the industry a chance to show what it’s all about and they did not disappoint. It is moments like this that make me proud to say I’m a part of it all.
The Blaster’s got the call they’d been waiting for while we were all jawing in the lobby, the call from Mark Sutton that our Nelson Paint (bright pink Hemorrhage) had arrived, so we exchanged more hugs and kisses and bade our farewells, making our collective way over to the hotel loading dock to transfer the paint. Most of us were meeting Mark, the (relatively new) Nelson rep and his assistant – the brainy – and lovely – Christina – for the first time.
And now a moment from our sponsors.
Nelson totally supported the team this past weekend. The paint performed marvelously all weekend long despite some of the worst weather conditions you can subject paintballs to – hot and moistily, dampily, sweatily HUMID. Mark and Christina were on a sharp learning curve as the team introduced them both to just about everyone in the industry (their heads must still be spinning), competition paintball, the UWL in particular and, perhaps most difficult of all to wrap your head around, the Master Blasters way of life.
And now a moment from one of our other sponsors.
Chris Cole and Kevin Hefferle were eager to see the results of the very hard work they’ve been putting in on the new Zodiac Marker, as the Blaster teams (two, one in the Open division and another in the Tactical division) took the field armed with Zs.
I don’t know what their reaction was but mine was ‘whoa!’ What. A. Gun!
Frequently when we talk about how a paintball gun shoots we say things like ‘shootijng darts’, ‘on a rope’, ‘laser beams’. Folks, the term to describe how the Zodiacs shoot has not yet been invented. When some genius comes up with a phrase that accurately describes the awesome accuracy (aided and abbeted by the Nelson paint) these guns are capable of, I’ll edit this piece to include it here. Until then, suffice to say be very careful about testing one out because you’ll have no choice but to buy one. (Check out this video of the gun shooting by PaintballDelivery.com
And finally, the last word from yet another sponsor.
Allen Paintball has some awesome gear, headlined by the new Paintball Jerry Can (no, it’s not named for that guy living in New York), which they introduced this weekend. It’s a paintball caddy and pod-filler, shaped like a WWII ‘jerry’ (gasoline) can. They’re shipping now with pods and a pod holder, but beyond serving as a filler, they’re going to be doing a lot of duty as paintball game prop. I also fell in love with their mini-pods (designed to fit into an M16 ammo clip pouch) and their new Barrel Blockers.
And Valken. How can I not mention Valken!? Probably because Valken gear is EVERYWHERE. And it is ALL great. Pants. Jerseys. Packs, and more. The guys are covered in it and under it (thanks for the tent!) Truly great gear that the team could not have done without. (Now I’ll go whap myself upside the head a few times. All that time spent talking to Carmen ‘the angry’ Borgia. I’m watching for his car out the window now….)
And now back to our show.
The remainder of Friday was spent field walking the UWL, hobnobbing with conference refugees and getting settled into the hotel.
Saturday morning saw the usual tournament grind – up too early, breakfast too rushed, mad scramble for gear and all the rest – tempered by the fact that the Blasters teams weren’t scheduled for early games. The first game though (tactical) did give us a foretaste of things to come as the game ended with the Blasters believing that they’d lost on points (not a great way to start an event), only to find out about a half hour later that they’d WON on points. This kind of thing would come to a head at the end of regular play when it resulted that there was a three-way tie for who would advance to the finals, a decision that the Blasters won, but only on technicalities. The Misfit Militia was right in there and lost on the decision. (Don’t read that as a critique of the UWL – tie-breaking rules are well published by the league, it was just that this was, due to scheduling and game results, an unusual and awkward situation. What it really means is that three teams played equally well and played an event they can be proud of.)
Saturday also saw the kick-off of Mission Master’s Guns-n-Gold scenario game, headlined by that red-headed submariner, Greg Hastings. When first encountered, Greg was bouncing all over the festival grounds like some insane rubber ball that someone had painted a huge, toothy grin on. He was having a blast and so were the rest of the game’s players. (Sunday saw this entire group, some two hundred strong, bow their heads for a moment of silence for the soldiers lost in the weekends downing of a helicopter in Afghanistan.) Scenario attendees outnumbered the tournament players on this occasion, so give them their props.
I spent most of the day shuttling between the UWL event (where I was hustled onto the field during play to take pictures of THE LEADING LADY OF PAINTBALL – Jessica Sparks – playing with the Failure to Flatline team. Jess has been playing since, oh, god invented paintballs I think, and she was showing fine form this past weekend, working the bushes with her trusty CCI Phantom) The attending teams at the event were:
Master Blasters (Tactical)
Master Blasters (Open)
Failure to Flatline
Henchmen (Chuck Hendsch’s team with a lot of former AA players)
I didn’t get the final results (available or should be on the UWL Site), other than being selfishly concerned with where the Blasters finished – 2nd in the Tactical division and 3rd in the Open. (It coulda, shoulda, woulda been 1st and 1st, but I will admit to a little bias in that regard.)
I will say that Tom Cole has become my favorite promoter (sorry Deb!); he’s been around so long, dealt with so many issues as a team captain and league organizer over the years that his methods of dealing with things just make me fall over and laugh. His responses to questions are so fraught with double meanings, shared history and just plain old ‘can you believe I’m hearing this argument from the other side’ irony that it’s an enormously fun show to watch him operate. I expect that YMMV – unless you too have spent 25 years knocking around the paintball tournament scene (in which case you’ll get the joke).
Over on the trade show side of things (up and down a VERY annoying hill that I’d forgotten all about over the past seven years or so – the last time I was out at Three Rivers) we had – Allen Paintball, displaying their aforementioned latest, Valken (who I think provided pop-up tents for nearly every single team playing the UWL), Tippmann with a very cool trailer and their usual arrary of indestructible guns, Empire Paintball showing off their demo deal concept, AKA LMP, PALCO, Cool Stuff by L&M and The Paintball University – of which I am proud to say I have now joined as a ‘kee contributor’.
I spent quite bit of time with Bambi Jo Bullard of PBU (Coastal Paintball, ACTS tournament series), talking about this and that but of course also going through the university’s curricula to see where I might fit in.
Field and store owners will be able to obtain an encyclopedia of information, best practices and inside tips from some of the best and most experienced people in the biz from PBU and I’m looking forward to helping out where I can.
It’s been several hours in the writing here and I’ve yet to get any pictures up, not to mention the fact that I’ve not begun to talk about things like the Friday Night Cocktail hour (always a highlight), info on other products, the other people I hooked up with (howdy again to Dre Wolf of drewolf’s vido channel!) and a whole host of stuff that I remembered to not forget to remember, so I’m going to cut this off here and promise that I’ll get more up on the site tomorrow. (Gotta do the dishes now – they’ve been waiting since Thursday! Don’t it suck when mundanity interferes with all this paintball stuff!?!)
Well – almost done for now. I need to include two other things of great import to me and hopefully of some little import to you all:
First – I’m very pleased to announce that Jim Lively and Tom Kaye have both stepped up to the plate with donations to the Historic Marker Project (a roadside marker commemorating the location of the first paintball game) and several others have promised support but need to get official permission from their respective companies. Response to requests for donations at the event was overwhelmingly positive.
If you would like to do the same (no amount is too big or too small), here is how it is being handled at the moment: since I do not yet have finals costs from the state, simply let me know (email facebook, etc) that you would be interested in supporting the project. When I have all of the details nailed down, I’ll get back in touch, fill you in and we’ll proceed from there. (Full accounting and credit to donors will be made via the website.)
The other thing is that I now feel comfortable in announcing a new book that will be forthcoming from yours truly. The book is going to be called –
THE GREATEST PAINTBALL STORIES EVER TOLD
and I’ve lined up a fantastic group of paintballers from all walks of the industry for this. They’ll each be contributing a GREATEST story about the game and, based on the response and the reception, it’s going to be a hoot! Issued as an e-book (maybe print in the future), the book will contain multiple stories from all walks of paintball, each story relating an interesting situation and the lesson that it taught. We’ll be seeing tales from people like Tom Kaye, Bambi Jo Bullard, Jim Lively, Wayne Monteleone, Jessica Sparks, Josh Silverman, Kevin Donaldson and many more.
Once the book is out, there will be a website for others to share their stories and each month I’ll be picking the ‘best’ story; the author of that story will get a free copy of the book and their story will be included in a future volume of THE GREATEST PAINTBALL STORIES EVER TOLD!
More & pics tomorrow folks!