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Does anyone go to RTMC any more?

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#1 gmartin02

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Posted 13 May 2012 - 06:49 PM

I just did a search in this forum and in the Outreach forum and there are no posts or replies specific to RTMC in April or May (the last reply is on March 31st.)

Does anyone go to RTMC any more? Do vendors show up any more? I used to go during the early to mid 2000s and it was a really busy, well attended event with almost all of the vendors present.

I would go if there is anything happening. It is surprising that there is no buzz for this event any more on Cloudy Nights, particularly since it is close to one of the largest amateur astronomy populations in the US.

Perhaps it is because of the excessive single day daytime admission price ($25) - The Julian Starfest only charges $5 for single day admission to the vendors area. If I want to go with my wife & 10 year old daughter to RTMC for the day, it will cost me $60 just to get in to see the vendor's booths (not including gas).

Also, even though it has traditionally been held on Memorial day weekend, this is also a bad idea a) For commuting to the event for either overnight or for single day (because of the extreme traffic throughout this particular weekend - get worse & worse every year), b) Sometimes inclement weather because it is a little too early in the season for the elevation, and c) Half of the Memorial Day weekends are no good for deep sky viewing because the moon is up.

I don't know why they don't move the event to a non-holiday weekend in the Summer - perhaps it will go the way of the dinosaur sometime soon.

#2 jeffg

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Posted 13 May 2012 - 11:54 PM

Yes, a few of us still go to RTMC, but isn't the must-do event that it used to be. The main reason I go is that I also attend the Society for Astronomical Sciences (SAS) meeting that occurs in Big Bear in the days before RTMC. This is a very science driven conference with research paper presentations, but done mostly by amateurs. It is sometimes amazing that good science can done with small telescopes (Although one speaker last year defined a small telescope as anything less than two meters). But this kind of "fun" isn't for everyone. I share your concern about the high price of RTMC, it is hard to find a "bargain" if I've already spent $100 just to get my family inside. :confused:

#3 OleCuss

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 11:02 AM

I do plan to go there this year.

As a first-timer I'm wondering of there are any tips?

I plan on camping, are there any pointers on how you select or get assigned to a site? What little I've seen in photos suggest most camping is in trailers/RVs (poor sampling technique so I could be way off). Is the place friendly to tent camping?

Do you have to show up on Wednesday to get a camping site or can you do OK if you arrive Thursday, Friday, or Saturday?

My main motivation for going is to learn a bit about building telescopes - is it still a worthwhile event for that?

I also signed up for the AP lecture because I have much to learn before I start that - and yes, I suspect a lot of what I'll hear will be above my head but I can deal with that.

#4 gmartin02

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 01:06 PM

I am pretty sure the campsites are first come first take - the last couple of times I camped up there that was the way it was. I tent camped both times, so that shouldn't be a problem.

Since attendance is down the last few years, I don't think you will have a problem finding a camping spot, but you will probably get a better one if you get there earlier. I think if you get there by Thursday evening you should be able to find about anything you want, but again, since the attendance is down Friday should be OK too (if you feel like fighting that out of town Memorial Day weekend traffic).

#5 cphk96

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 02:20 PM

I went there last year, and we (girlfriend and I slept in the bed of my pick up). Tehre was plenty of places to camp, and we got there Friday afternoon.

I plan on going there this year, Saturday morning.

Chris

#6 OleCuss

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 02:46 PM

I appreciate the information. It'll make things work just a little better.

#7 Darren Bly

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 04:02 PM

I'm guess I'm one of the "old timers". I've only missed one since 1987 and plan to be there this year. Campsites and dorms are first come first serve. I've always arrived on Friday morning and have never had an issue finding a site. Some of those years there were over 2000 people there. This year I'd guess there will be 1000 or so people. I've never done a single day but I agree $25 is a little high.

Venders? Well, two years ago the RTMC board moved the date from Memorial Day weekend and a lot of venders (as well as attendees) were no shows. Last year, and from now on, RTMC is back on it's normal weekend. Venders were up last year but not to early 2000's level.

#8 Darren Bly

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 05:57 PM

Also, even though it has traditionally been held on Memorial day weekend, this is also a bad idea a) For commuting to the event for either overnight or for single day (because of the extreme traffic throughout this particular weekend - get worse & worse every year), b) Sometimes inclement weather because it is a little too early in the season for the elevation, and c) Half of the Memorial Day weekends are no good for deep sky viewing because the moon is up.

I don't know why they don't move the event to a non-holiday weekend in the Summer - perhaps it will go the way of the dinosaur sometime soon.


Boy are you mistaken!

I've been there 24 of the last 25 years, all 24 on Memorial Day weekend. Moving the date to new moon weekend was tried in 2010 and attendance went from 1200 down to 400! The next year it was back on the normal weekend and attendance was back to 1000. RTMC isn't an observing party.

You complain about inclement weather. Well I've been snowed on 3 time in 24 years and had very high winds last year. Not a bad average.

Moon phase? Well as I said RTMC is not really an observing party. I've been there with 1200 people on full moon weekend.

Traffic? People drive in from Az, Nv, Ut, Or, every year so I guess the traffic isn't too bad.

#9 gmartin02

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 09:39 PM

Boy are you mistaken!

I've been there 24 of the last 25 years, all 24 on Memorial Day weekend. Moving the date to new moon weekend was tried in 2010 and attendance went from 1200 down to 400! The next year it was back on the normal weekend and attendance was back to 1000. RTMC isn't an observing party.

If RTMC isn't an observing party, then why does anyone bother to bring a telescope that isn't entered in the asro imaging or merit award contests, and why does the RTMC web page list the moonrise & moonset times on the front page of thier web site?

You complain about inclement weather. Well I've been snowed on 3 time in 24 years and had very high winds last year. Not a bad average.

I went up for Saturday 5/27/2006 and had to leave in the evening because the wind was so strong no one could observe - I drove down to the desert & had a good night observing. I also avoided last year because of the forecast of high winds - that's 2 out of the last 6 years. Not a good average.

Traffic? People drive in from Az, Nv, Ut, Or, every year so I guess the traffic isn't too bad.

When you drive in from those directions the traffic isn't bad, but try driving in from the LA Basin (the largest population draw for the event) on Friday or Saturday on Memorial Day weekend - super stressful bumper to bumper traffic for multiple hours - I won't subject myself to that again - luckily I now live north of the LA basin so I too can drive in the back way.


Darren, I'm playing the Devil's advocate here a little, so take my above comments with a grain of salt, but there is a reason that the attendance has dropped to about half of what it was 15 years ago.
When they tried to move the event to the new moon in 2010 they moved it to a non holiday weekend even earlier in the middle of the school year - not a very good idea to increase attendance and get families with kids to come (which they promote on their web site.) Just because they bungled the selected new moon date doesn't mean it is a bad idea, it was just poorly thought out by the organizers. A summer non-holiday moonless weekend would have been a much better choice, but of course they can't do that because of the YMCA summer camp schedule.

Here is a link to an attendees report from last year that paints a little bit different picture than what you described: http://theketelsens....11/05/rtmc.html

The report states estimated attendance under 800, telescope field deserted, as were most of the vendor spots along the borders of the lanes.

Again, the reason I wrote my original post was because there wasn't a single RTMC post in the month of April or May before mine. I was surprised by this, and it points to a general lack of interest among Cloudy Nights users, which was not the case in years past.

I guess another question is: How many new attendees are showing up? If the attendance is mostly long time attendees, that is not a good sign for the future.

I sincerely hope that RTMC survives far into the future, but as with any enterprise, it must learn to change with the times if doing the same old thing is no longer working so well, and perhaps try to do a better job of promoting the event. If attendance continues to decline, perhaps an non-holiday weekend early summer event after school is out at a different location could save RTMC before it vanishes.

Greg

#10 Joe F Gafford

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Posted 15 May 2012 - 01:34 AM

I've been there several years ago. I was planning to go after the eclipse in AZ, but my relatives want me to stay with them awhile. I'll be in LA after the RTMC closes though to tour the observatories.
Joe.

#11 Tom Polakis

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Posted 15 May 2012 - 09:30 AM

I sincerely hope that RTMC survives far into the future, but as with any enterprise, it must learn to change with the times if doing the same old thing is no longer working so well, and perhaps try to do a better job of promoting the event. If attendance continues to decline, perhaps an non-holiday weekend early summer event after school is out at a different location could save RTMC before it vanishes


A conference held on a weekend away from Memorial Day that is not at Camp Oakes might be a nice star party, but it would no longer be RTMC. Good luck finding a dark site with facilities for a thousand attendees.

Camp Oakes is a pleasant place to spend a long weekend, but it is not a dark site. This fact was recognized by most of the people who didn't bother to show up when the organizers tried to turn it into a star party. If they moved the conference into summer, they would be competing with other star parties held at dark sites during the prime observing season.

Attendance recovered from 400 to greater than 800 when they moved the dates back to Memorial Day weekend. It would certainly fall again if they moved it away from Memorial Day, whether it's in May or during Summer.

A big reason for the rapid decline in vendor presence is the emergence of PATS as a trade show. Vendors would rather show off their wares in a climate-controlled room than a dusty field. In addition to the presentations and meeting old friends, the vendor field was one of the attractions of RTMC. I don't have an answer for how to get the vendors to return.

Tom

#12 gmartin02

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Posted 15 May 2012 - 10:00 AM

FYI - I created a graph of the "official" attendance reported by RTMC - the source data for this graph can be found by clicking on each year here: http://www.rtmcastro...g/archives.html

Here is the graph.

Greg

Attached Files



#13 Darren Bly

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Posted 15 May 2012 - 11:58 AM

Here is a link to an attendees report from last year that paints a little bit different picture than what you described: http://theketelsens....11/05/rtmc.html

The report states estimated attendance under 800, telescope field deserted, as were most of the vendor spots along the borders of the lanes.


I know the people who wrote that review. I base my numbers on the number of adult door prize tickets given out on Saturday night. I believe the number was 902 tickets (the year before I was told it was 380), I always round up to add the kids tickets. The venders were way down but were up from the year before. A lot of people and venders were still mad about the date change the year before.

Since you quoted the Ketelson's review I will too from the first paragraph "Perhaps we're spoiled by our own local skies, but for me, the joys of attending these events is in catching up with and making new friends, seeing interesting telescopes and equipment, the interesting talks, vendors of all types, and finally, the observing comes in a distant fifth." Like I said RTMC is not an observing party, it's an astronomy gathering where some observing may be done.

#14 OleCuss

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Posted 15 May 2012 - 12:59 PM

It actually pleases me that it is not so much focused on observing. I'm interested in the educational aspects of the event more than the observational. If I were going for the observing I'd go somewhere else.

#15 gmartin02

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Posted 15 May 2012 - 01:39 PM

I really do hope that RTMC continues far into the future. In years past, my whole astronomy year revolved around getting up to RTMC for the weekend, when it used to be the only significant event in Southern California (before PATS, Julian Starfest, OPT events, etc.).

I am thinking I will go up to RTMC this year for a daytime visit (but I still wish they would lower their day use fee a little bit).

The primary purpose of posting this in the first place was to see if anyone was going, because, like I said before, there was no mention of the event on Cloudy Nights forums for weeks before my original post.

The organizers for RTMC could do a better job at promoting their event here and other places to help attendance, especially important in these sluggish economic times. Using N.E.A.F. as an example: They now have their own dedicated forum here on cloudy nights, and there are posts in lots of the forums by various members and vendors about the event.

Creating "buzz" about an event is important - it keeps the event in people's minds. Even if they don't actually end up attending the event that year, they might in a future year.

I am glad I posted these comments - hey - even a little "negative publicity" is better than no visibility :)

Heck Darren, besides for my original post, yours back on 3/3/12 was the only one in this forum related to RTMC (except for the star party/gas prices post), where you were wondering why the RTMC seb site had not been updated and the fliers had not been sent out - these are promotion problems that can easily be fixed.

Greg

#16 Darren Bly

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Posted 16 May 2012 - 12:58 PM

Greg we should try to get together at RTMC. I'd love to meet you. Ask anyone with a Kern Astronomical t-shirt, they'll know where I am.

#17 gmartin02

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Posted 16 May 2012 - 02:01 PM

Greg we should try to get together at RTMC. I'd love to meet you. Ask anyone with a Kern Astronomical t-shirt, they'll know where I am.

Hi Darren,

That sounds great. Are you planning to be up there all weekend? I will probably make it up on Saturday or Sunday early afternoon (depending on family logistics). I may even spend the night (Saturday or Sunday) after all, and bring my 10 year old daughter (who really likes telescopes & astronomy), depending on our families plans for the whole weekend.

Greg

#18 gmartin02

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Posted 16 May 2012 - 02:08 PM

P.S. Yesterday, I emailed a link to these posts to the organizers of RTMC, but have not heard anything back yet.

#19 Alex McConahay

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Posted 16 May 2012 - 04:38 PM

I am one of the organizers.....We are aware of what is expressed here. If you would like to contribute even more directly, please come up to any of us at RTMC, or attend one of our organizational meetings. We do appreciate the input and the help.

Alex

#20 Darren Bly

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Posted 16 May 2012 - 09:41 PM

Hi Darren,

That sounds great. Are you planning to be up there all weekend? I will probably make it up on Saturday or Sunday early afternoon (depending on family logistics). I may even spend the night (Saturday or Sunday) after all, and bring my 10 year old daughter (who really likes telescopes & astronomy), depending on our families plans for the whole weekend.

Greg


I should get there about 10 on Friday and leave Sunday about noon.

#21 amicus sidera

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Posted 16 May 2012 - 10:19 PM

Perhaps it is because of the excessive single day daytime admission price ($25)


$25/day/person, while a not-inconsiderable sum, is pretty much de rigeur for such specialized events in these times. Expenses can be quite high if the group is required to obtain insurance and permits for the event.

That said, I wonder how much of a dent the internet has made into attendance of these and similar events... no real need to go to a convention to see a vendor's offerings. Also, the rise in the price of gasoline in recent years may be responsible for making many think twice before driving to RTMC from surrounding areas.

While there will probably remain a core group who attend RTMC and other events such as Stellafane religiously, their numbers, already small, will dwindle further as cultural changes continue, and the old guard passes on.

#22 Matthew Ota

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 04:35 AM

I am certain that the economy is the reason for the downturn in attendance at RTMC. I went there from 2000 to 2004, when I scored VIP cabin space due to my volunteer work with TIE. My last time there was in 2006.

If anything, I want to go back just for the raffle, which to me is the most entertaining part of the whole RTMC experience.

In addition, the vendors were known, at least when I went in previous years, to have special sale and factory blemished goods at bargain prices. In addition the swap meet was good for bargains on used equipment such as eyepieces.

I plan to be there in 2013. I will be at PATS again in September 2012.

I cannot go this year due to financial hardship.

#23 Rich 1

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Posted 26 May 2012 - 11:41 AM

Take a look at the average age of RTMC's attendees...most I've seen are over 40. Since it's a long way to travel for just a one day outing, one has to camp if your going to stay overnight. As I've gotten older (I'm 57) I'm much less prone to "rough it" and camp.

I think RTMC's biggest downfall is that the demographic of amateur astronomers is getting older, combined with many more options to buy equipment (i.e. PATS) combined with so many more low cost telescopes that fewer are making their own or are interested in trying.

I've noticed too that at gatherings like these there's very few young people. Guess our hobby just isn't exciting enough.

Rich

#24 Whichwayisnorth

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Posted 26 May 2012 - 11:25 PM

I just got back from there. Just a few hundred people in total for a Saturday. I checked out the swap meet which was mostly people selling non-astronomy related items like bull whips and crystals. NO THANKS. The sponsors I spoke with were very disappointed in the turn out. One of the bigger names there flat out told me that they would probably not go again.

I will not be going back again.

#25 MikeRatcliff

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Posted 27 May 2012 - 05:46 PM

Haven't been there in several years, but I went Saturday afternoon and had a good time. Wish I had gotten there earlier in the day to do the whole thing. Observing was decent until the wind came up.

If they offer it next year, I will likely go again.

Mike






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