This story was published in Radio Recall, the journal of the Metropolitan Washington Old-Time Radio Club, published six times per year.
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Great Lakes Nostalgia Convention Delights All in its April Debut
by Mike Wheeler © 2016
(From Radio Recall, June, 2016)
I had the pleasure of attending The Great Lakes Nostalgia Convention April 8 and 9 in Kalamazoo, MI, and I had a great time! If there was any doubt about whether the magic of the former Cincinnati OTA & Nostalgia Convention could be replicated in a new locale, it was totally dispelled. If you had considered going, but chose not to, you seriously need to consider attending next year.
Operationally, everything seemed to run very smoothly. That doesn't just happen so Don Ramlow and his team deserve kudos for that. I think the attendance may have been slightly smaller than we've had at Cincy Con the last few years but not by a lot. It was a very respectable turnout for a new convention in a new location.
I saw many familiar faces and the friendliness that was a hallmark of Cincy was there as well. The hotel was very nice and the convention layout was better than what we've had in Cincy in recent years. At the convention rate, the hotel cost was about the same and (I know this is a big deal to some people, including me) there is a free shuttle from the local airport.
Martin Grams Jr… it's impossible to say enough good things about him. Martin had a big presence at GLNC. He dominated the dealer room alongside tables for the special guests, Kathy Garver and Paul Petersen. He also gave a captivating presentation on Talulah Bankhead and The Big Show. Martin's presentation alone was worth the price of admission. He also provided a lost Ed Wynn TV show that was screened on Saturday. His work to preserve and document golden age radio and1'V is phenomenal.
The other major presentation was by Bob Daniel talking about his grandfather, Brace Beemer. Bob has a pretty decent speaking voice, himself. He shared family photos and stories and I certainly came away with a better appreciation of the man who voiced The Lone Ranger.
What about the recreations? For me, the recreations are a major reason I go to OTA conventions. GLNC followed a schedule modeled on what we did in Cincy so there were three performances, each with two shows. All of them were superb! I've never been disappointed by an All Ears Theatre performance but when they are "playing on their home court" they really sparkle. I thought their Magnificent Montague performance last year at Cincy was probably the best recreation performance of any during my tenure running Nostalgia Expo. At GLNC they did episode two and it was even better! I've seen a lot of "so-so" Gunsmoke recreations over the years. Not this year. They did a Gunsmoke episode that featured Randy Larson (of the Chicago Group Players) as Matt with Paul Petersen as Chester and both of them absolutely nailed it. While they weren't William Conrad and Parley Baer, they both "got" the characters and their voices, intonation and timing were spot on. Everyone really enjoyed that recreation.
Randy was there, at least in part, because his Chicago Group Players were invited to come and do a recreation of their own. That was a nice continuation of a Cincy tradition. They did a Mr. and Mrs. Blandings and all were impressed with their performance. Between the featured guests, All Ears Theatre and the Chicago Group, the amount of talent on display this year was astonishing.
So, to respond to the questions: "Did it carry on the spirit of the old Cincinnati conventions?" and "Did you have a good time?" the answer is a resounding YES! Whether it was a sufficient success financially to sustain itself and grow, I don't know. But I certainly hope so. Now let me say this as plainly as I can: The Great Lakes Nostalgia Convention is a worthy successor to Bob Burchett's long running Cincinnati Old Time Radio & Nostalgia Convention and the short lived Nostalgia Expo. Don Ramlow has already said that they plan to do another one next year and I'll be in attendance. You should too.