Thousands of happy hobbyists descended upon the Hilton Anaheim for the Reef-A-Palooza (RAP) California aquarium show on October 7 and 8. The annual event is hosted by the the Southern California Marine Aquarium Society (SCMAS), a local club whose members help each other and others succeed in aquarium keeping.
“Our goal is to inspire people to get started in the aquarium hobby,” said Greg Carroll, President of SCMAS. “We want to inspire people in the hobby to get more involved. We also want to reinvigorate the old saltys who’ve been doing this for a long time. I think Reef-A-Palooza satisfies all three levels.”
2017 marks the 14th year for the bustling indoor marketplace and frag swap. Reef-A-Palooza has blossomed into a national trade show and educational extravaganza, where the industry’s premier brands come to show off their latest innovations and new companies vie for the attention of attendees.
In recent years RAP was held at the Orange Country Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa. This year the show was held at the Hilton Anaheim which was definitely a classier venue. Being at a hotel made it easier to hang out with new fish-keeping friends in the spacious lobby or bar downstairs. The show was well-organized and a robust marketing plan helped draw a big crowd.
“I think the show was a definite success,” said Carroll. “Having Reef-A-Palooza at a hotel completely changed the feel of the show. People used to separate after the show ended each day. RAP attendees actually booked a couple of hundred rooms at the hotel so there were an awful lot of reefers there. The camaraderie was great. I didn’t find anyone who was displeased with the show.”
The Hilton Anaheim is located a mere 5 miles from Marine Depot headquarters in Garden Grove so we took advantage of our close proximity and hauled over a ton of T-shirts, tanks, and just about every cool new product you can imagine to make a big impression.
Day 1 kicked off with four of our team members—Amy, Johanna, Kelly, and Jeff—handing out red shirts to early birds in line. We teased on social media the week before that the first 500 people to show up would get a free shirt and a raffle ticket to win a 105 gallon Red Sea Peninsula aquarium in our booth. Everyone we talked to was super nice and it was awesome to see so many people sporting their Marine Depot shirts at the show over the weekend.
All of the booths were packed with people. Coral farmers sold hundreds of colorful frags while top brands like Current USA, Eshopps, and Neptune Systems demonstrated their products and answered countless questions from always inquisitive aquarists.
“People thought they were coming out with an Alkalinity monitor,” Carrol remarked about Neptune Systems’ last innovation, the Trident. “Then they come out with a Calcium, Magnesium, and Alkalinity monitor. Who could have asked for better than that?”
Robert and Steven from our team filmed expert speakers including Julian Sprung of Two Little Fishies and Jake Adams of Reef Builders which we’ll be releasing in the days ahead on our YouTube channel. I captured live streams and pictures for our social media while our marketing and purchasing staff chatted with vendors to catch up and discuss new opportunities.
The best part for us is being able to see and talk to all of our customers in person. It’s satisfying putting names to faces since most of the time we’re engaging with customers by email or over the phone. It definitely had us feeling all warm and fuzzy hearing customer success stories and how something we recommended made caring for their tank easier.
Our customer service department eagerly showed off our recently announced Best of 2017 award winners that were on display in our booth and we sold beautiful aquacultured fish from Sea & Reef and Quality Marine to attendees.
Robert from our YouTube channel is easily the most recognized member of our staff and everyone wanted to talk to him. He is a humble guy and was delighted to hear from so many that the educational content Marine Depot pumps out every week has been helpful to them. We got so much helpful and honest feedback from people, from brand new hobbyists to customers that have shopped with us for decades. It’s heartwarming so many people care about Marine Depot and it inspires us to work even harder to make Marine Depot an online destination you’ll want to visit again and again.
It took us all day Friday to set up our booth and the aquariums on display. The following morning we coordinated our various sales, raffles, and giveaways. It really is a team effort so we were delighted to see that the traffic on Day 2 (Sunday) was just as busy as Day 1.
In the photo below, Manny, our customer service manager, is starting to aquascape a 57 gallon AquaMaxx aquarium. Jose from SCMAS and MD staffers Cole and Dean offer their input.
Now let’s jump into our DeLorean and travel back to 2006. That was the year the 3rd annual Reef-A-Palooza show was held and we hosted the event in the parking lot of our old building near Angel Stadium.
You could feel it even back then 11 years ago that Reef-A-Palooza was beginning to gain momentum. It’s amazing to see how much the show has grown and become such a tremendous success. We are extremely proud of SCMAS for what they started because it means so much to so many now. The SCMAS partnership with World Wide Corals has elevated the Reef-A-Palooza name to the national stage so be sure to visit their New York or Florida shows next year if you can’t make it to California.
“Reef-A-Palooza gets reefers pumped up and energized to take on new projects and products coming down the pike,” said Carroll. “People picked up some really beautiful corals this year. It’s just one of those shows that causes waves of excitement in the hobby.”
Special thanks to Greg from SCMAS for chatting with us and everyone we met and talked to at Reef-A-Palooza. See you next year!