In the past, when I’ve used different types of community-type websites, such as; forums, dating sites (yep, I admit it), social media, etc.—one of the things I would say to introduce myself in my profile is, "Having fun is something I take very seriously." I like the irony in the actual truth of that statement. That assertion also seems to be true of The Greater Kansas City Pipe Club. The last full weekend in June, (June 22-24, 2012) was my second, and the club’s 13th annual show. After experiencing two of their shows, and additionally spending time with Kansas City club members at other shows, I am reminded of my statement that declares a strong resolve to have a good time.
The club, headed by John Cermak, is run like a serious business. They have a board of directors, by-laws, steering committee, show committee, marketing director and several other positions responsible for specific duties—and it’s all in the name of delivering an immensely enjoyable experience for all attendees and participants in their show. I felt like a VIP at both shows in 2011 and 2012. Although one might think that could be the case since I am the owner of this publication, it’s not really the situation. Everyone received special treatment. One example is how the club members donated their own 30, 40, and 45-year old vintage tobaccos, opening them for the first time for all attendees to enjoy without prejudice—for free. You can see some of them below. (Click the picture for a closer view.) I smoked the Dunhill Virginia, Three Nuns, and Edgeworth. They were all amazing. I also had some extremely old Orlik Golden Sliced from Adam Davidson, and Marcovitch from Fred Hanna. I brought less than an ounce of tobacco with me for the 2.5 days, and still had more than I needed.
Another way I think of the Kansas City show is that it is, "The biggest, and friendliest small show." They have achieved the perfect balance of having enough different things going on that there is always something new to experience throughout the 2.5 days that you never get bored, but there is not too much that you are overwhelmed and can’t keep up with the pace, and end up missing things, and people you want to spend time with. Even though the weekend goes by pretty fast, it still seems just right—not too long, and not too short. The official show days are Saturday and Sunday, but many people are there by Friday afternoon, and there is an awesome Kansas City-style barbeque buffet dinner Friday night, along with demonstrations and the aforementioned sharing of decades-old vintage tobaccos. Some people even arrive on Wednesday or Thursday.
As always, it was a joy and a pleasure to spend time and smoke excellent tobaccos with industry heavyweights such as; Gregory L. Pease, Tad Gage, Fred Hanna, Mike & Mary McNiel, Brian Levine, and Adam Davidson to name a few.
Kevin Godbee, Gregory L. Pease, Tad Gage
Brian Levine, Mike & Mary McNiel
An additional way the club strives to differentiate their show is by focusing on "American Carvers". The American Pipe Carvers was a competition and a raffle. Fifty different American pipe carvers submitted entries to the 3rd Annual GKCPC Pipe Carving Contest. Judges; Greg Pease, Tad Gage, and George Dibos chose the seven best pipes to make up the 7-day set. The 7-day set also includes a highly unique case made by Anthony Harris, club member and master woodcraftsman. The contest was sponsored by Pipes and Tobaccos Magazine and SmokingPipes.com.
Tickets for the American Carver’s raffle were sold at $25 each with the proceeds going to the pipe makers that were included in the set. The Pipe Carvers in the seven day set were: Rad Davis, Steve Liskey, Chris Morgan, Joe Nelson, Tonni Nielsen, Brad Pohlman, and Thomas James. The winner of the 7-day set, for the second year in a row, was Bobby Owens from Georgia. He’s a lucky guy. He should play the lottery. Ethan Brandt, St. Louis, MO won the $750 Gift Certificate and Bill Miller, Overland Park, KS won a $500 Gift Certificate, both from SmokingPipes.com, and Ken Huffman, Franklin, TN won a lifetime subscription to P&T Magazine.
All of the pipes and the special handmade display case will take your breath away. We can’t show it to you at this time as Pipes & Tobaccos Magazine has the exclusive so no photos were allowed. Look for it in the next issue of P&T, or wait for it to be published here in the future. You can see some gorgeous photos of the 2011 GKCPC Pipe Carving Contest Pipes here, and more information about the 2012 Contest here.
The show was held at the Doubletree Hotel in Overland Park, KS. This was a new venue that the club chose because it is more centrally located to various cities that can provide a larger audience. Walk-in traffic reportedly increased from last year, and there were 75 tables displaying all types of merchandise. Along with the growth of the show, the club has experienced substantial expansion. Two years ago they had 28 members, and today they have 92 with a considerable influx from the younger generation. The goal of the club is to help support and grow the pipe hobby, and the numbers demonstrate that they are succeeding in their mission.
We were quite lucky with the weather. At this time of year, the Kansas City area can be uncomfortably sweltering and humid. It was a little bit warm, but no where near what it could’ve been. The temperature and humidity actually skyrocketed the following two weeks after the show, breaking records over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, but we were lucky for the show. The combination of the nice weather and the grove area where the smoking tent was located, made for a pleasant and relaxing smoking experience.
There was a plethora of pipes, tobaccos and related accoutrements to be seen. The following is a small sampling. In our show coverage, we try to expose people and products that have not been represented in previous show reports.
It was nice to see something new and different for the pipe enthusiast in the form of Dustin Babitzke’s Briar Portraits. We have portraits done of our families and even our pets, so why not pipes? They are actually quite classy and sophisticated. There are two categories of offerings. One is to have a custom portrait of your own pipe made, and the other is ready-made, stunning, decorative pipe pictures. There are Limited Edition signed and numbered prints in a matted 8×10 size, and a limited number of 13×19 prints available suitable for a full size frame—a must have for the pipe enthusiast’s man cave. Special graphics software is used to enhance the look of the pipe and the photo overall. Prices range from $35 to $50. Some pipe makers are utilizing these services for their high-end pieces to provide a high quality enhanced photograph along with the pipe to their customers. You can mail your pipe, or see Dustin at a show and he can photograph it on the spot.
Dustin was also displaying his collection of Blowfish pipes which won Best Display at the show. He has been collecting them for 15-years, and has 75 Blowfish, and another 25 that are "fishy-esque" type of pipe shape. Some of the makers include; Trevor Talbert, Adam Remington, Adam Davidson, and Todd Johnson.
In my continuing effort to finds things new, different and unique—Olie Sylvester’s table was pay dirt. The pipe world definitely has a large cast of unconventional characters in general. (Anyone that’s been to a pipe show can certainly attest to that.) I actually shared a ride in from the airport with Olie, and found him to be quite friendly, down-to-earth, intelligent and a good conversationalist. He seemed kind of like a "regular guy". However, the wheels turning inside of Olie’s head are devising quite creative atypical, and fun pipes that are also quite smokeable, and certain to get attention. He is the self-described; "Baron of The International Oom Paul Society of Non-Typicals … A mixed media non-objective abstract artist … a.k.a. ‘The Pipe Butcher’". The special line of pipes he crafts is called the Monstrosities. They are aptly named.
The Beastie Series (perhaps a good ad tagline would be, "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Piiiii-ipe!)") is a limited edition, 9-piece collection. They are each stamped "Beastie" and numbered. Each pipe has a glass eye and 3 to 4 teeth. Each tooth is individually hand-carved from mammoth ivory. The bowls are made of briar, the stems are ebonite, and each unique pipe is listed at $150. Olie says; "There’s only nine of them, and man are they ugly!"
The Demon Series consists of 50 pipes, 10 sets of five, each named after a different demon. Each set has the demon name stamped on the bottom along with its’ individual number. The Demon Series originated when Olie found some old half-finished pipes in Germany that had been sitting around since the 1960s. Olie suggests; "It’s really a cool way for someone to get a hold of some very old wood with a unique twist to it."
Olie started making pipes in 2008, and studied with Todd Johnson. He says that pipes are more than just a hobby. They are a lifestyle. I think that’s a good observation, and true for many pipe smokers and collectors. When asked where his inspiration comes from, he explains that he has been an artist since childhood. He attended art school to become a fine artist, and approaches pipe making in a completely different way than most. Prices range from $80 to $200. Here is a link to Monstrosity Pipes, and here is Olie’s Fine Art for the Frugal.
Continuing with our "Out-of-the-Ordinary" theme, we turn to Anthony Harris, of Acme Woodturning. Anthony makes pipes, tampers, pipe stands, egg-shaped boxes, acorn boxes, "baccy flaps", and match-boxes. Here are some of Anthony’s unique pipes.
Here’s a short 1.5 minute video clip of Anthony talking about the last pipe pictured -
See More at http://acmepipes.com/
Dru Melpolder’s Dead Guy Pipes are another uncommon line of handmade pipes that are inspired by F. K. Kirsten Pipes and Falcon Pipes. They have a metal body with a screw on bowl and their own unique cooling system. Any moisture collects below and in front of the bowl, and can be emptied by unscrewing the opening. Dru says; "I am a machinist by trade, I have always enjoyed working with metal. I decided to make them because the other metals on the market today, while being great pipes, have not changed much."
He explains the name Dead Guy Pipes; "My original drawings and designs for my pipes where influenced largely by the human anatomy, mainly the skeleton."
The main body is made of anodized aluminum. There is a silicon O-ring for the water-catcher in the front, and a Delron insert for the tenon for an even fit. All of the bowls are interchangeable from each pipe as they have a common screw-on fit. Even the pipe pictured above with the metal outer bowl has a briar insert. Some of the brair bowls were made by Anthony Harris of Acme Woodturning. The pipes retail for $150. See more Dead Guy Pipes here.
As noted in the beginning of the article, there were several tins of excellent vintage tobaccos being shared on Friday night. Saturday was no different. New treats popped up along with a fun and interesting story from club member Auggie Augspurg.
A couple of years ago at the show he met a woman that was a W.A.S.P. (Women Airforce Service Pilot) from World War II. She had her father’s pipe collection, which Auggie purchased, and subsequently sold many Sasieni pieces to Tony Soderman … but that’s another story.
The collection also included a large box of aged tobaccos. Auggie has been enjoying them, but he saved a special mystery for Saturday, June 23, 2012. With great self-discipline, he left untouched and unopened for two years a parcel from Benaderet’s Pipe Shop, San Francisco, CA - postmarked December 14, 1967. Now that’s some restraint to not even open the parcel to see what is inside!
Heavyweight tobacco blenders, Greg Pease and Mike & Mary McNiel couldn’t help but to be intrigued. Saturday afternoon Auggie opened the package in front of all three tobacco professionals with the promise that we would smoke it that night, after dinner. Nice!
As you can see from the above photos, the package contained two 8 ounce tins of a long forgotten, and unknown to all of us present—a pipe tobacco named Aristocrat. I was given the honor of opening the first tin. It was a very nice smoke - light, airy, and perfume-like in taste. I’ve had some aged cigars that were like that.
Other happenings at the show included a slow smoke contest, hourly raffles, Steve Stein presented a "Clinic on Enhancing Your Pipe Smoking Techniques", and Ken Davis offered a workshop on Pipe Refurbishing.
Dr. Fred Hanna was the featured speaker on Saturday night after a fabulous dinner. Fred spoke about several things that are in his book; "The Perfect Smoke - Gourmet Pipe Smoking for Relaxation and Reflection", and even though I’ve read the book (it is excellent) and I’ve heard Fred speak a couple of years ago at The West Coast Pipe Show … I never get tired of listening to him talk about pipes and tobacco. He gave an extremely informative and entertaining talk on several topics, including how nicotine actually has several positive health benefits, the magic pipe that makes everything taste better, and many other intriguing subjects.
Joe Skoda won both Best Pipe and Best Carver awards. The 2-part Calabash won Best Pipe of Show. It has a custom-fitted case that Joe made as well. It has a briar insert and the top is made of Masur Birch. Retail is $2,650.
Russ Cook won Best Non-Briar Wood Pipe with his Morta Sandblasted Bulldog. The origin of the wood is Oak from the bottom of Lake Superior, which Russ refers to as "Michigan Morta".
Best Collection went to Rev. Rolf Nestingen for his Comoy Pipe collection.
This article may seem a bit lengthy, but it just scratches the surface. The show was a blast. Be sure to mark your calendars for the Kansas City Pipe Show next June.
Here is last year’s coverage of the 2011 Greater Kansas City Pipe Show.
Kevin Godbee is the Publisher & Editor in Chief of Pipes Magazine. Kevin started smoking pipes and cigars in 1998 and started an online cigar magazine & community site in 2005. (The site was acquired in 2008 and no longer exists.) He launched PipesMagazine.com in 2009, and in less than three years the site has become the largest trafficked pipe smoking related site, and the #1 Source for Pipes and Pipe Tobacco Information.
In the beginning of his career, Kevin worked in the hobby and specialty toy business for 16 years in sales, marketing, advertising and product development for three different manufacturers, and with his own company.
Over the last 10 years working in the online business, he has become an expert in Internet Marketing and SEO. Kevin is a Certified Master Tobacconist (CMT) through Tobacconist University, a member of Cigar Rights of America and is a "Media Member" of the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association. In his spare time he sings, plays guitar, cooks, and enjoys all the wonderful places to go and things to do in beautiful downtown St. Petersburg, Florida where he lives in his penthouse bachelor pad. Kevin has been smoking pipes and cigars for 14 years.