NRHSA Recap My first NRHSA show and what an experience.

BY MEGAN THRONE

PHOTOS BY: DENNIS ANDREAS, DENNIS MCFARLANE AND KEITH PRUITT

Editor’s note: As the third generation of a family with a rich history of involvement in the hobby industry it’s nice to get Megan’s perspective on the show and what has taken so much time away from the family over the years. The 2017 NRHSA show was my 15th consecutive show, and it can sometimes be hard to put a fresh spin on the event, but this was Megan’s first experience in Las Vegas and her perspective is very enlightening. Starting with the term, “mom and pop” stores we’re always promoting NRHSA as a family organization, so beginning with her background I’ll let Megan tell the story.

Long before I knew how to say “hobby” or “NRHSA,” I was a member of the hobby industry family. My parents have often told me that while visiting my grandparents (many of you know them as Walt and Jan) at their hobby shop on a race night, I took my first wobbly steps straight into my grandpa’s embrace. Moments later, he proudly announced my accomplishment over the intercom to the racers, many of whom still compete on Walt’s HobbyTown’s racetracks today.

My grandparents have helped to nurture and support me since day one, and they have done the same for NRHSA. In fact, the NRHSA show and I are the same age: 24. Yet with all of these years exposed to the industry I attended the show for the first time this year, which was particularly special for me and my family as three generations of Thrones were present. Finally meeting people and participating in events I’d heard so much about felt like not only a family reunion but also a culmination of my various experiences in the hobby industry so far.

Three generations of Thrones were present. Walt and Jan, who were founding members of NRHSA, Bruce and his wife, Mary Throne, and this article’s author, Megan Throne is pictured in the center of the picture.

I grew up attending races and fun-fly events, building plastic models, and performing in holiday commercials for Walt’s HobbyTown. Eventually, I transitioned to working alongside my dad, grandparents, and other employees. Everyone knew me as the boss’s granddaughter—the quirky little girl who played with the hobby products and stuck pricing stickers all over herself in the back room. Despite this, though, they immediately welcomed me as their coworker.

Learning the specifics about my family’s business and the products we sell was interesting and exciting. I quickly became comfortable talking with customers about products and answering the phones. I especially enjoyed the versatility required to work in a hobby store, which includes challenges like trouble-shooting customers’ R/C products, explaining the differences between types of glue and helping parents find the perfect gift for their child.

It is during the show that elections are held and NRHSA directors accept the responsibility of executive positions. In the changing of the guard, Past President Noel Bays (right) is presented with a plaque and congratulated on his successful term by incoming President Kevin Koch (left).

During this time, my dad became president of the NRHSA Board, and later, my grandparents handed down ownership of the business to him. I felt immense pride as my dad told me about his new responsibilities, like leading the organization of the Table Top Expo. Over summers and college breaks, I continued to work alongside him and loved observing him settle into his role as owner of Walt’s HobbyTown.

What may be a last photo opportunity as he has announced his retirement, was Jack Burnside from Empire Hobby along with Cindy McFarlane and this magazine’s Editor in Chief.

After graduating from college and moving out of state to attend graduate school, I was approached about working for Hobby Merchandiser, and my connection with the hobby industry expanded. Editing the New Product Showcase section allows me to communicate with people and companies that I grew up hearing about and to stay in touch with industry news. I love this because sometimes I even know about new products before my dad does!

Great Planes always sends a nice array of currently popular along with many new products to the NRHSA show and with the products comes a team of Hobby experts, led by Tom Adamek (right), who are on-hand to take orders, assist with problems, or help with any Hobbico questions a dealer might have.

When show producer Rob Gherman invited me to attend the 2017 NRHSA show with Hobby Merchandiser, I was extremely excited. The timing worked out perfectly, as I successfully completed my Master’s thesis in late April. During my flight to Las Vegas, I was filled with anticipation; everything had come together so that I would finally experience the show I’d heard so much about first-hand.

On Sunday, the first day of the show, I met my fellow staff members of Hobby Merchandiser for the first time. Before this, I had only ever chatted with them over the phone and on email. So, getting to know Rob, Dennis and Cindy McFarlane, Dennis Andreas, and Keith Pruitt in person was a blast. They are a great group of people, and I’m so glad to work with them. My grandparents and dad also introduced my mom, who joined us for the weekend, and I to their hobby family.

Part of the gala was when Tamiya setup its multi-lane mini 4WD race track and held a series of competitive races which involved dealer assembled race cars provided to the participants who attended the Tamiya Introduction to mini 4WD racing seminar.

The concurrent presentations and workshops on Sunday and Monday were well-attended and informative. They offer a great opportunity for dealers to learn from one another about how to implement new ideas and perspectives. Even if a dealer’s primary focus is on R/C vehicles or trains, presentations on other aspects of the industry can be especially useful. For instance, tools and paints are great crossover items because they are applicable to R/C, rockets, trains, plastic models, and more.

I had heard many great things about the various demos, and none disappointed. I admit I was partial to the Indoor Flying Demo; it was wonderful to watch my grandfather, Walt, in his element as he announced for the event in front of his peers. I’ve always admired his ability to sprinkle humor and insight throughout his announcing.

Lacking energy due to recent health issues Walt Throne wasn’t on top of his game until he was handed a microphone during the indoor flying demonstrations. Within minutes Walt had the crowd energized and ready to view some top indoor pilots flying some rather spectacular helicopters and drones.

The weather could not have been better for the Boat Pond Demo. I had never seen boats race in person, so seeing the boats—and trucks—zip around the pond was extremely cool.

Without question there is aways a large variety of products for dealers to try at the pond. But the most unique item this year won’t be found in stores (unless adapted by enterprising owners or managers) but there was this really odd-ball (yet rather cool looking) FPV camera mount and recovery vehicle that saw quite a bit of water time.

A person doesn’t often see a radio control boat doing jumps, but this is now possible with the “jet” boats from ProBoat that much like a full-scale counterpart, use a water pump to propel the boat forward, eliminating the potential for damage from hanging shafts and propellers.

After a long winter it’s always fun to get outdoors to enjoy a hobby and while it is sponsored by Traxxas the boat pond demonstrations have been one of the most popular events of the show for several years.

Finally, at the R/C Car Demo, I enjoyed driving a rock crawler around and watching cars and trucks of all sizes swiftly zig-zag over the pavement.

The Industry Luncheon and Pool Party were excellent opportunities to mingle with other attendees amidst good vibes and great food. I was also impressed by the Dealer to Dealer seminar, which offers a platform for dealers to get into the nitty gritty details about their stores and how they can improve.

I think the moment that best captured the essence of the NRHSA Show to me was when I walked around the Table Top Exposition with my dad. I learned so much about new products and business discussions. My dad was so excited to introduce me to his friends in the industry, and he told me he was proud to listen as I talked about the New Product Showcase with the exhibitors—many of whom I email on a regular basis, but was now able to put a face to a voice or letter.

TOP LEFT: Kathleen Vetal manned the Hobbytyme booth solo for the show yet was able to maintain a smile the whole time. Look for a detailed review of the new Bandai line of sci-fi kits in an upcoming issue. TOP CENTER:Horizon Hobby’s Joe Ballard was more than happy to demonstrate the company’s new line of inexpensive entry-level radio control products. SECOND ROW LEFT: Horizon Hobby’s Joe Ballard was more than happy to demonstrate the company’s new line of inexpensive entry-level radio control products. SECOND ROW CENTER: A few minutes before the show opens booths are nervously prepared to perfection. Of course the Table-Top is hands-on, so everything is disrupted seconds after the crowd enters the building. SECOND ROW RIGHT: An absolute delight to speak with and having more energy than most people half her age, Inge Bass (left) has been a regular at shows since co-founding Stevens International with her husband in 1976. BOTTOM ROW LEFT: When approached, HRP’s Bill Jeric always found time for a one-on-one encounter with a dealer who wished to discuss the company’s offerings. BOTTOM ROW CENTER: Hornby’s National Sales Manager Justin Brooke has an incredible amount of knowledge regarding the products he sells and he loves to chat with customers about them.

The hobby industry, after all, is a family industry; families work with and serve other families. Generations pass on their hobbies, stories, and knowledge to the next, which is exactly what happened as my dad and I made our way around the show floor.

I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to get to know more of you this year. This may have been my first NRHSA show, but I’m confident it won’t be the last. I hope that all who attended left with the same excitement I feel about how the industry, the show, and all of us will continue to grow and change together as a family. HM

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