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gmartin02
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Loc: Santa Clarita, CA
Does anyone go to RTMC any more?
      #5220833 - 05/13/12 07:49 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.


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jeffg
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Loc: Irvine CA
Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: gmartin02]
      #5221196 - 05/14/12 12:54 AM

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.

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OleCuss
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Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: jeffg]
      #5221773 - 05/14/12 12:02 PM

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.

Edited by OleCuss (05/14/12 12:03 PM)


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gmartin02
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Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: OleCuss]
      #5221991 - 05/14/12 02:06 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).


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cphk96
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Loc: North Hollywood, CA
Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: gmartin02]
      #5222126 - 05/14/12 03:20 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


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OleCuss
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Reged: 11/22/10

Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: cphk96]
      #5222198 - 05/14/12 03:46 PM

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

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Darren Bly
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Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: OleCuss]
      #5222330 - 05/14/12 05:02 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.


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Darren Bly
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Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: gmartin02]
      #5222524 - 05/14/12 06:57 PM

Quote:

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.


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gmartin02
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Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: Darren Bly]
      #5222822 - 05/14/12 10:39 PM

Quote:

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?

Quote:

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.

Quote:

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.blogspot.com/2011/05/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


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Joe F Gafford
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Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: gmartin02]
      #5223026 - 05/15/12 02:34 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.


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Tom Polakis
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Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: gmartin02]
      #5223305 - 05/15/12 10:30 AM

Quote:


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


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gmartin02
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Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: gmartin02]
      #5223343 - 05/15/12 11:00 AM Attachment (26 downloads)

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.rtmcastronomyexpo.org/archives.html

Here is the graph.

Greg


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Darren Bly
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Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: gmartin02]
      #5223506 - 05/15/12 12:58 PM

Quote:

Here is a link to an attendees report from last year that paints a little bit different picture than what you described: http://theketelsens.blogspot.com/2011/05/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.

Edited by Darren Bly (05/15/12 01:16 PM)


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OleCuss
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Reged: 11/22/10

Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: Darren Bly]
      #5223596 - 05/15/12 01:59 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.

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gmartin02
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Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: Darren Bly]
      #5223680 - 05/15/12 02:39 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


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Darren Bly
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Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: gmartin02]
      #5225211 - 05/16/12 01:58 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.

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gmartin02
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Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: Darren Bly]
      #5225315 - 05/16/12 03:01 PM

Quote:

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

Edited by gmartin02 (05/16/12 03:06 PM)


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gmartin02
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Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: gmartin02]
      #5225321 - 05/16/12 03:08 PM

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

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Alex McConahay
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Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: gmartin02]
      #5225590 - 05/16/12 05:38 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


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Darren Bly
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Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: gmartin02]
      #5225985 - 05/16/12 10:41 PM

Quote:


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.


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amicus sidera
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Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: gmartin02]
      #5226032 - 05/16/12 11:19 PM

Quote:


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.


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Matthew Ota
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Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: amicus sidera]
      #5229215 - 05/19/12 05:35 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.


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Rich 1
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Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: Matthew Ota]
      #5240631 - 05/26/12 12:41 PM

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


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Whichwayisnorth
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Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: Rich 1]
      #5241571 - 05/27/12 12:25 AM

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.


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MikeRatcliff
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Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: Whichwayisnorth]
      #5242679 - 05/27/12 06:46 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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Rich 1
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Reged: 05/04/10

Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: MikeRatcliff]
      #5242761 - 05/27/12 07:48 PM

I'm curious how the weather was Friday, heard they got some snow.

Rich


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Alex McConahay
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Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: Rich 1]
      #5243414 - 05/28/12 09:01 AM

It was a cold and clear Friday, and there was a wind.

It was a very curious weather phenomenom Friday night. People were observing, with nice skies, but about five miles away, in Big Bear City, it was raining, and later turned to snow. Even while folks were observing up at Camp Oakes!!! When I woke up Saturday, there was a dusting of snow, but it was clear as a bell. Weird.

Alex


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gmartin02
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Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: Darren Bly]
      #5243731 - 05/28/12 11:54 AM

Quote:

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,

I did stop by RTMC Saturday afternoon, but was only there for about an hour and a half. I looked for people with Kern Astronomical t-shirts, but didn't see any

Sorry I missed you - perhaps I'll go for longer next year and run into you.

Greg


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gmartin02
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Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: Tom Polakis]
      #5243860 - 05/28/12 12:51 PM

Quote:

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



I went up Saturday afternoon with my 10 year old daughter, but only stuck around for about an hour and a half (my brother just bought a house in nearby Crestline, so we went to visit him for dinner).

Tom, you are right - RTMC is not really a star party, because it is not very dark. It is no longer a good event for looking at vendor wares, because the vendors are barely showing up any more - in the "premium" vendor area, there were only a small handfull of vendors (Meade, TeleVue, OPT Woodland Hills Telescope), with huge empty spaces in between. The vendors that I talked to didn't seem very thrilled to be there.

The main observing field was almost empty - only 2 or 3 telescopes were set up from overnight observers. Maybe this got better at night time. I years past, even though it is not the darkest site, I got the opportunity to look at & through many large and/or innovative telescopes in the evening at the main observing field, but it doesn't seem to be very active as it used to be.

So, not optimum for star party observing, not much good for vendor browsing, that pretty much leaves the lectures as a good reason to attend the event.

When I looked at the RTMC website, I couldn't find a schedule of lectures, so was unable to plan an attendance time or date around talks I would be interested in. Perhaps if I registered early enough these would have been mailed to me, but since I did not, I had no idea until I arrived & got a program what was happening when.

Oh well, I still made the vendor rounds and bought a couple of items. I may go back next year for the lectures (if I can get the list of dates & times from the website so I can plan when to come), but probably won't go for vendors or observing any more.

Greg


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jeffg
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Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: gmartin02]
      #5244077 - 05/28/12 02:48 PM Attachment (65 downloads)

I was there on Friday afternoon. I only stuck around for about an hour. Nothing to see, no afternoon talks, and only a few vendors. Friday afternoon used to be the day you could get some really good deals stuff from the vendors, but they didn't seem to have much stuff with them. Attached is the view of the so-called "telescope field". I guess the answer to the original question of "Does anyone go to RTMC anymore", is not really. I doubt I'll bother going next year.

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Reged: 02/19/10

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Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: jeffg]
      #5244487 - 05/28/12 06:56 PM

It's a real shame to hear that one of the long-time events in amateur astronomy is fading away.

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OleCuss
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Reged: 11/22/10

Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: seryddwr]
      #5245371 - 05/29/12 10:29 AM

Not sure it is really going away.

As a first-timer it is difficult to judge, but the impression I got is that they are mostly down to a core of individuals who will show up almost no matter what.

I ended up with the feeling that it had faded but may not be fading.

Do remember one other thing. For Southern California it was COLD at night. That put a big damper on people wanting to set up their telescopes - or to show up at all.

I myself had planned to go on Friday but due to the weather I didn't go until Saturday.

I think that if the weather had been better and the economy weren't still pretty lousy - the attendance would have been much better.

But again, I was a total noob so far as the event was concerned so my read could be way off.


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cphk96
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Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: OleCuss]
      #5245671 - 05/29/12 01:37 PM

Hello All,

This year was the 2nd year of attending this event. I attended last years event. My S/O attended both events with me as well. I am the astronomer, my girlfriend loves to socialize. She loves to visit/talk to other people, and ask to see into the eyepiece. She loved the camaraderie of the meals. She was really disappointed by the lack of companionship that was present at this years event, that she found at last years meals. (This year, they had a open counter style meal plan. We ate our lunch Saturday afternoon by our selves.)

Edited by cphk96 (05/29/12 01:39 PM)


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tim53
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Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: cphk96]
      #5245804 - 05/29/12 02:56 PM

I stayed from Friday afternoon through Sunday evening. I wish I had the time and energy to stay over Sunday, because the weather was beautiful all day Sunday and it was dead calm when I left about 9:45pm.

Let's not forget that the Annular eclipse was just the Sunday before RTMC, and many people traveled quite a ways from home to be on the centerline. If I couldn't have done both events (have property near the centerline and live only a couple hours from RTMC), I might have just stayed in Utah for a few days of dark skies around new moon and skipped RTMC. I suspect a lot of people did just that.

Yes, attendance was down (it seemed lower than the non-memorial weekend event 2 years ago, but I don't have the stats) and Friday and Saturday nights were cold and windy, but the views through the scopes I looked through were very nice, as were the conversations with friends and new acquaintances during the daytime. I went to several talks on Saturday and Sunday, and enjoyed those. The keynotes were very entertaining and interesting.

I don't have a problem with vendors preferring PATS to RTMC, as I can understand not wanting dust all over your new stock. The benefit of RTMC over PATS is that the vendors *could* show their wares at night. Televue did just that (even though they weren't "vending"). One of the reasons I bought a TV refractor a couple years ago was because I'd been able to view with one at RTMC prior to the purchase. Especially for big-ticket items, I like to know what the scope can do before I commit plastic.

The swap meet was surprisingly well-represented, in spite of the low attendance. It was sad to see John Sanford's gear being sold off, but also good to see it get into the hands of amateurs who know what it is and how to take care of it and make use of it.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Amateur telescope making is alive and well, though it's obviously different from the way it was when RTMC started. I've been to Stellafane and the Oregon Star Party. These events are different from one another and from RTMC, but telescope making is a big part of both meetings.

So, I think it can be again at RTMC. And in spite of the low overall attendance, there were 9 merit award entries (I think that's right). I tried to look through all of the winners on Saturday night. One that sticks in my memory is the young lady who made the 10" Dob, including the mirror, as her first telescope (I think). Views through the scope were beautiful, with pinpoint stars and high-contrast nebulosity - a first rate mirror!

This was my 34th RTMC. I've never missed one since the first in 1979. I've only gone once without bringing a telescope, and I've never stayed less than two days and one night (usually 2, sometimes 3). Unless I'm busy next year with Mars (Curiosity science team member), or unable to "sit up and take nourishment" (with apologies to Tom Dobbins, from whom I done stole that saying), I expect to be attending next year's RTMC.

-Tim.

Edited by tim53 (05/29/12 02:59 PM)


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Darren Bly
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Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: gmartin02]
      #5245975 - 05/29/12 04:56 PM




Hi Darren,

I did stop by RTMC Saturday afternoon, but was only there for about an hour and a half. I looked for people with Kern Astronomical t-shirts, but didn't see any

Sorry I missed you - perhaps I'll go for longer next year and run into you.

Greg




Hi Greg.

I'm sorry I missed you. I spent most of Saturday morning at the swap meet. I was really worried on Friday, it was windy and cold all be it sunny. The weather got better as the weekend went on, by Sunday it was really nice. The venders were about the same as last year and the attendance was about 500 or so.

One of the changes for this year was the way the meals were paid for and served and it didn't seem to work very well. Examples? One of my friends had to wait 20min for a vegi burger! There were only two options for a vegetarian dinner all weekend and they ran out of one of them. They really should change the menu, at least for dinner, each night.

I really missed sitting down with new people and having a meal.

On the plus side, we sat with Hap Griffin and chatted for over an hour on Friday night and got lots of pointers. The Saturday keynote by Bob Bower was great.

To sum up: It was a good RTMC. I wish we had more people and venders but I still had a good time.


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MallBoy
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Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: Darren Bly]
      #5246557 - 05/29/12 11:08 PM

I'm going to say it was a better than good RTMC...not great, but better than good. Low attendance, vendors down, and weather less than comfortable (nowhere near as bad as last years wind!) aside, fun was had by all in our group. I think this goes to show that RTMC can't be pigeonholed into one category, but is a complex beast that I will continue to attend for many years to come!

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Starman1
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Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: MallBoy]
      #5260529 - 06/07/12 05:23 PM

Well, as someone whose first RTMC was around 1980, let me make a couple comments on what I saw this year:
--Attendance was miniscule compared to 15 years ago. All the attendees could have set up in the main telescope field and it wouldn't have been crowded. And, as it was, that telescope field was nearly empty.
--at times on Friday and Saturday, I swear the number of people attending who came with vendors or vendor families outnumbered guests by a significant margin.
--the number of lectures and hall presentations was down significantly. There was never a time it proved necessary to have 2 presentations going at once to accommodate the number of lectures.
--the swap meet was a tiny portion of what it used to be. Almost non-existent.
--So few telescopes were set up that it was almost a TeleVue-only event. On Friday night, the best night for the Moon, and clear to midnight, Meade didn't bother to set up scopes at all.
And Celestron, Vixen, StellarVue, and 20 other CA companies didn't even come.
--Entering at 10am Friday, I was the only car at check-in. In the past, there would have been a line many many cars long. I remember waiting in a line almost a mile long one year.
--last, the crowd at Mt. Pinos on any clear New Moon weekend is larger, telescope-wise, than RTMC in its entirety.

Frankly, unless things change a lot, for me, RTMC is dead.
And unless the attendance at this Fall's PATS is more than double last year's event, PATS is dead.

Now this is at the same time that star parties such as Julian, or NightFall are going up. And NEAF is doing fine as an equipment exhibition because it is well-attended by vendors.

What does that say? That amateur astronomers are more interested in the observing star parties and well-attended equipment exhibitions now than they are in not-quite-well-attended-equipment-exhibition, not-quite-observer-star-party, events.

RTMC's problem, to the current observer, is that it isn't quite dark enough to be an observing event, and not well-enough attended by vendors to be an equipment exhibition, and not quite educational enough to be a lecture exhibition. Not quite just doesn't make it.

IMO, of course. YMMV.


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Tom Polakis
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Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: Starman1]
      #5261691 - 06/08/12 10:45 AM

Quote:

RTMC's problem, to the current observer, is that it isn't quite dark enough to be an observing event, and not well-enough attended by vendors to be an equipment exhibition, and not quite educational enough to be a lecture exhibition. Not quite just doesn't make it.





That's a good diagnosis of the problem. It feels like a personal loss to me, because it its days of 1500 reliable attendees, it was a great weekend.

While the Julian Starfest is healthy, I have attended three of the four, and I'm not sure the attendance has increased since the first one. I don't have the numbers in front of me.

Tom


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Jeff Morgan
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Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: Starman1]
      #5261716 - 06/08/12 11:01 AM

Quote:

Now this is at the same time that star parties such as Julian, or NightFall are going up. And NEAF is doing fine as an equipment exhibition because it is well-attended by vendors.




Given the length of the product development cycles and the cottage industry, one equipment exhibition event per year seems about right, and NEAF seems to be it.

From an observing perspective, traveling to a bright-sky observing event is just plain nuts. Save the effort for Oregon, Texas, or Winter Star Party.


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Starman1
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Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: Jeff Morgan]
      #5261839 - 06/08/12 12:27 PM

There are a few other factors at work in the past several years:
1.the recession. Even people who are working are afraid that they too will soon be unemployed, so they have literally stopped spending. This, of course, deepens the recession and makes them stop spending even more. It's a spiral. One of the things sacrificed: going to shows like RTMC, which was a lot about vendors, and PATS. NEAF is doing well because it is heavily promoted and because the eastern US is doing a lot better financially than the west is.

2.demographics. Sure, Cliff Holmes died, but so have hundreds of regulars who used to attend RTMC every year. And many of the surviving regulars are now so old they cannot handle the altitude or, because they are on fixed incomes, cannot afford to buy the gas to go.
My friends Tom & Edie couldn't go not because of entry fees (which are high), but because it would cost them too much in gas to get to and from. They're retired and live in a motor home.
This hobby, face it, is one composed largely of the science nerds from the '50s, '60s, and early '70s, when the space program was going in earnest and it was OK to go into math and science in school, and a higher percentage of people could afford college. We've never been able to capture the imagination of the generations after for a variety of reasons.

3.lack of promotion. Sure, we have a few people like Neil deGrasse Tyson, but he's promoting astronomy, not observing. And RTMC isn't really promoted among the vendors. When only a couple of CA vendors come to a CA show, you know something is wrong.

4. the brightening of the night skies (or should I say, the THEFT of the night skies). I grew up in a city of 80,000, about a mile from downtown.
We could see the Milky Way every clear night in the backyard. Today, in that town, now 50,000, you have to travel 20 miles outside of town to see the Milky Way at all. The difference is the huge proliferation in outdoor bright lighting. For two generations, we've been sold a bill of goods--that outdoor lighting = safety. In the era of cheap energy, it was affordable light, but we inadequately understood the consequences. 30 years ago, RTMC
was fairly dark. Not perfect, but good enough for some observing to go on. Now it's only that way if LA down below is completely covered with low clouds. It happens, but not all the time.

5.lack of excitement. Remember when people would all look forward to a fantastic swap meet, or days of lectures (many back to back in inside and outside locations) of interest to the observer, or seeing a huge number of vendors in one spot, or seeing old friends and reconnecting, or getting a door prize, or even eating burgers in the outdoors. Now, and for a few years, the swap meet is down because of the decline in ATM, the lectures are a pale shadow of the former (there weren't even two full days of them this year), the vendors didn't come.

6.weather freakishness. For several years, we've had high winds, snow, cold, rain, or something odd. Gone are the regular dry skies with temps in the '80s in the daytime.
Part of that is the time of year, and part is simply that there have been changes in the late May weather patterns.

7.(this one may be major) The huge proliferation in the number of organized star parties. People used to look forward to coming to RTMC, but now there
are literally dozens of major, nationally-advertised, star parties held all over. Even in CA, there are now several big star parties. This dilutes people's interest in attending one like RTMC. There could be just as many amateur astronomers going to major star parties, but local ones might have, and probably did, siphon off a lot of attendance.

8.the rise of astrophotography. Largely, I believe, as a response to the brightening of the skies and huge publicity given the Hubble photographs, more than half
of today's amateur astronomers aren't observers. And astrophotographers don't, by and large, come to events promoting observational astronomy so much as they
attend events promoting imaging.


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Alvan Clark
sage


Reged: 03/13/10

Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: Starman1]
      #5261914 - 06/08/12 01:17 PM

Quote:


8.the rise of astrophotography. Largely, I believe, as a response to the brightening of the skies and huge publicity given the Hubble photographs,




I personally think imaging is catching on more because it has gotten fairly easy. Anyone can produce some nice images versus film days. Pretty much everyone can produce largely the same raw images. Those who standout have simply better equipment or better knowledge to tweak psychedelic photos.


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Rich56
member


Reged: 06/02/12

Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: Starman1]
      #5262112 - 06/08/12 03:28 PM

I noticed too though a significant drop in vendors at last years PATS in Pasadena.

I almost didn't go because of the around $40 it cost to get in with admission and parking costs.

Maybe in the past, but in recent years I almost never saw anyone at RTMC under 25 years old.

I'm saddened to see it dwindle as I have a lot of great memories there.


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MallBoy
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Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: Starman1]
      #5264698 - 06/10/12 12:57 PM

Quote:

3.lack of promotion. Sure, we have a few people like Neil deGrasse Tyson, but he's promoting astronomy, not observing. And RTMC isn't really promoted among the vendors. When only a couple of CA vendors come to a CA show, you know something is wrong.





I think the lack of promotion to get new attendees, and the loss of vendors/attendees due to the change of weekend conflicting with other events and established long held schedules are the main factors for a diminished RTMC. The creation of PATS seemed to be a contributing cause, but after the last couple of years at PATS...It's on the decline as well!


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Rich56
member


Reged: 06/02/12

Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: MallBoy]
      #5266987 - 06/11/12 07:55 PM

Quote:

The creation of PATS seemed to be a contributing cause, but after the last couple of years at PATS...It's on the decline as well.




I can see why RTMC has diminished but any opinions on why PATS has?

Rich


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Starman1
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Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: Rich56]
      #5267038 - 06/11/12 08:38 PM

Bad economy = poor consumer attendance at PATS = less vendor interest in showing at PATS = poorer attendance = fewer vendors.
Add to that poor timing (after the season), poor advertising, less web coverage and.........
But mostly, it's the economy. Vendors have cut back just like the consumers have.


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Alex McConahay
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Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: Starman1]
      #5268523 - 06/12/12 06:18 PM

You know, I mostly just read the stuff and move on. Don't take it wrong. I take it real serious. I pay attention and really incorporate any of the helpful ideas I get from the discussion on these sites. From my vantage point as a volunteer, though, it usually does not do much good to enter into the discussion.

But there has to be a point where one must inject some facts.

PATS is in fact growing year to year in attendance. It has had four years so far, with the last year the biggest yet in attendance.

Somebody a couple of posts ago mentioned paying $40 to go to PATS for a day, parking included. If you are paying $40, you are not taking advantage of club tickets (at most $15) or Happy Hour ($10) and other ways to get in for less than retail. (And obviously not car pooling with a buddy or two!) And in a day and age where one pays $6-$12.00 for a movie, (And $5.00 to $8.00 for the popcorn to go with it), it really is not all that much in comparison.

So far (with more than three months to go), we have sold more than 250 tickets, and several orders are pending. We have had vendors reserve all of the entrance spaces, four of the six corner spaces, more than half of the premium spaces, and several of the standard. (This includes several vendors who have not previously attended PATS!!) And for those of you who are not aware of it--most vendors get their stuff in at the last second if they can. So, we expect many more.

All this is to say that PATS is running real healthy, and we would love to have you all there this September 22-23.

Alex


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Starman1
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Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: Alex McConahay]
      #5268582 - 06/12/12 06:58 PM

Quote:

You know, I mostly just read the stuff and move on. Don't take it wrong. I take it real serious. I pay attention and really incorporate any of the helpful ideas I get from the discussion on these sites. From my vantage point as a volunteer, though, it usually does not do much good to enter into the discussion.

But there has to be a point where one must inject some facts.

PATS is in fact growing year to year in attendance. It has had four years so far, with the last year the biggest yet in attendance.

Somebody a couple of posts ago mentioned paying $40 to go to PATS for a day, parking included. If you are paying $40, you are not taking advantage of club tickets (at most $15) or Happy Hour ($10) and other ways to get in for less than retail. (And obviously not car pooling with a buddy or two!) And in a day and age where one pays $6-$12.00 for a movie, (And $5.00 to $8.00 for the popcorn to go with it), it really is not all that much in comparison.

So far (with more than three months to go), we have sold more than 250 tickets, and several orders are pending. We have had vendors reserve all of the entrance spaces, four of the six corner spaces, more than half of the premium spaces, and several of the standard. (This includes several vendors who have not previously attended PATS!!) And for those of you who are not aware of it--most vendors get their stuff in at the last second if they can. So, we expect many more.

All this is to say that PATS is running real healthy, and we would love to have you all there this September 22-23.

Alex



Alex,
I've attended PATS every year, and what you just said is simply not believable. The number of vendors displaying was down significantly to my eye, and the number of people walking the aisles was visibly down from prior years.
My informal estimate was that attendance was the worst of all 4 years.
You must be counting people who came each day as more than one visitor or something. I never saw the crushes of people I'd seen in earlier years, especially in year one. And I didn't see a lot of vendors who were there in earlier years.

RTMC said they were expecting about 800 people this year, but if that came to pass, they were counting every body that came in and left no matter how short the visit. My estimate was that there were perhaps a couple hundred max, at the peak, counting vendors.

If you've been to NEAF, you've seen what a show like PATS should be like. We have as many amateur astronomers on the west coast as they have in the east, yet attendance by vendors and public here is miniscule in comparison.

So how do we boost attendance at PATS?
1) more vendors. I want to see every vendor there, including those who went to NEAF earlier in the year. How you entice them is up to the show management.
2) Discounted club member entry advertised directly with the several hundred clubs in the US. Why shouldn't someone from Texas come to a show in SoCal?
3) More advertising on-line and in publications that the show is coming. For at least 3 months in every English language magazine and blog site. Emails to all the vendors to encourage them to post the info on their sites. Include all the bed-and-breakfast astronomy places, too. Have a 1-page handout for them to print at will to pass out to all people they meet.
4) information about local hotels and motels on the website.
5) More presentations during the show.
6) Door prizes and/or raffles
7) email the address list directly with all the information above at least 2 months in advance of the show. And send another reminder the week before.
8) have email sign up directly on the PATS home page.

Some of these have been done before, but without much advance publicity.

But it starts with #1. If vendors don't show up, visitors won't come back.

Edited by Starman1 (06/12/12 07:01 PM)


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Rich56
member


Reged: 06/02/12

Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: Starman1]
      #5269429 - 06/13/12 12:16 PM

Don,

"The number of vendors displaying was down significantly to my eye, and the number of people walking the aisles was visibly down from prior years.
My informal estimate was that attendance was the worst of all 4 years."

I have to agree with you there. I was surprised how few visitors & vendors there were last year compared to the year before.

Yes, there are a lot of astro-nuts in southern California, but compared to back east we're a fickled bunch.

Back east sports fans come to games early, and stay late. Here in So Cal they'll arive at a Dodger game by the 2nd inning then leave late in the 7th, regardless of how the Dodgers are doing.

Weird.

Also Don, since you we're at this years RTMC, did they even bother to have the door prize awards like they do every year?

With few vendors to contribute, I imagine there were few door prizes to be found.

Rich


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Starman1
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Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: Rich56]
      #5269613 - 06/13/12 01:50 PM

Rich,
Yes, they did door prizes.


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Darren Bly
sage
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Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: Alex McConahay]
      #5269654 - 06/13/12 02:13 PM

Quote:

You know, I mostly just read the stuff and move on. Don't take it wrong. I take it real serious. I pay attention and really incorporate any of the helpful ideas I get from the discussion on these sites. From my vantage point as a volunteer, though, it usually does not do much good to enter into the discussion.

But there has to be a point where one must inject some facts.

PATS is in fact growing year to year in attendance. It has had four years so far, with the last year the biggest yet in attendance.

Somebody a couple of posts ago mentioned paying $40 to go to PATS for a day, parking included. If you are paying $40, you are not taking advantage of club tickets (at most $15) or Happy Hour ($10) and other ways to get in for less than retail. (And obviously not car pooling with a buddy or two!) And in a day and age where one pays $6-$12.00 for a movie, (And $5.00 to $8.00 for the popcorn to go with it), it really is not all that much in comparison.

So far (with more than three months to go), we have sold more than 250 tickets, and several orders are pending. We have had vendors reserve all of the entrance spaces, four of the six corner spaces, more than half of the premium spaces, and several of the standard. (This includes several vendors who have not previously attended PATS!!) And for those of you who are not aware of it--most vendors get their stuff in at the last second if they can. So, we expect many more.

All this is to say that PATS is running real healthy, and we would love to have you all there this September 22-23.

Alex




Hi Alex,

You and I talked about some of the things listed in this thread at RTMC this year. I also agree that anyone paying $40 to go to PATS is not taking advantage of any discounts. I pay half of that.

BUT

RTMC must use every avenue to advertise both RTMC and PATS after all (for example)isn't that what this forum is for? There was a time when RTMC was the only thing going on the west coast, now that's not the case. As for PATS, I have gone all four years and plan to go this one. There is no way you can tell me the attendance has gone up each of the past four years. I always go on Saturday with my wife, and she commented last year "there is no one here". The first year the hall was full of venders with few if any empty slots last year it was only 2/3 full with at least eight open slots. I hope you are right about the venders for this year. I want to see both PATS and RTMC around for a long time to come.

C ya on the September 22nd


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Matthew Ota
Hmmm


Reged: 04/30/05

Loc: Los Angeles, California
Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: Darren Bly]
      #5272222 - 06/15/12 02:06 AM

I miss RTMC as I have not been there since 2006. I went to my first PATS last year and will definitely attend this year. These are the two conventions where SoCal astronomy clubs come together in one place.

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OleCuss
member


Reged: 11/22/10

Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: Matthew Ota]
      #5273362 - 06/15/12 06:04 PM

I don't claim to have any special insight as to the RTMC attendance this year. But I do remember thinking that if the door prize tickets were handed out sequentially that based on the called numbers there must have been around 700 tickets given out that evening.

I'm not good at crowd size estimation, but I would not have guessed 700 people at that presentation.

Again, I have no access to attendance numbers and I don't know how door prize tickets were allocated - or what percentage of people hung around for the door prizes.

Personally, there were only a few door prizes that I would have bothered going up to collect. If others were as excited about the door prizes as I was, that might explain why it didn't look to me like there were that many present.

And I don't mean to disrespect the door prizes. There was a lot of rather cool stuff - but it was generally stuff I'd not want collecting dust or tickets I'd never be able to use because I live nowhere near the venue.

I do not yet know, but I may be back next year - especially if the weather is favorable. It was a good bunch of people.


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hm insulators
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Reged: 01/22/07

Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: Starman1]
      #5281163 - 06/20/12 06:37 PM

Quote:

Rich,
Yes, they did door prizes.




So who won a door?

I wanted to go to PATS last year, but my car decided it wanted some repair work instead and that put the kibosh on that idea.

I hope to make it this year.


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Bill Llano
member
*****

Reged: 04/20/10

Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: amicus sidera]
      #5505842 - 11/05/12 07:11 PM

I have attended in the past, did not attend this year due to the atrocious weather report, it was true. I think that the downturn in attendance is due to two factors. There has been a falling off of ATM's(Amateur telescope makers) which was the main theme of the conference. I ground both a 10" f/5 mirror that Tom Cave built a telescope around, and a 6" f/8 mirror. Both came out excellent. We live in an age of instant gratification, just whip out the old credit card and presto! Telescope delivered! I have seen people spending more time bragging about their 6" Takagarbashi with a full set of Othos eyepieces than doing actual observing. And if their super duper auto tracking coffee grinding doo-hickey with a whizbanger breaks down, they can not even find the sky! Am I exagerating? Hell no! At a star party this past summer, I was asked by a guy with over 6gs in equipment: Where is Hercules? I wish it was a fib, but it is not! The second reason there has been a drop off, is that it is always held in the Memorial Day Weekend, regardless of the lunar phase. I am not going to invest money if I can not do some serious observing so that I can really judge the equipment that is there! I think that we should have it during the new moon phase, and hold it during Memorial day when we have a decent lunar phase.

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Joe F Gafford
Carpal Tunnel


Reged: 12/15/06

Loc: Denver, Colorado, US
Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: Bill Llano]
      #5505884 - 11/05/12 07:47 PM

I agree with Bill. I am 60 and is the age average of the active portion of my club of 350. I did not go to the club auction two weekends ago due to an unexpected family thing. I heard that it was poorly attended and only a few items sold. There are a lot of items for ATM in these auctions.
I have the two telescopes listed, both 1983 models. The 10" was bought new; the 18", used in 1991. I have done major mods to both to improve the drive accuracy for astrophotography. The 10" now does not resemble the Meade it was.
Yes, I've heard the whirr-whirr of the coffee grinders out there followed by a skerunkkk!. That followed by silence then sounds shifting into the blue.

My club tries to get the younger members to star hop, do the lists and start small before making any major purchase. We do get a lot of the younger new sucessful types who joins, gets the latest and greatest, gets bored and they move on. It is hard to get these younger hands off of the keyboard, mouse, touchscreen or game controller and onto a mirror blank tool.

Joe


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Darren Bly
sage
*****

Reged: 07/24/06

Loc: Bakersfield, Ca
Re: Does anyone go to RTMC any more? new [Re: Bill Llano]
      #5542088 - 11/27/12 01:03 PM

Quote:

I have attended in the past, did not attend this year due to the atrocious weather report, it was true. I think that the downturn in attendance is due to two factors. There has been a falling off of ATM's(Amateur telescope makers) which was the main theme of the conference.




I've missed one year since 1987 and the ATMing seems to be on a comeback. There were more entry's last year than the year before and the swap meet had a good amount of ATM stuff.

Quote:

The second reason there has been a drop off, is that it is always held in the Memorial Day Weekend, regardless of the lunar phase. I am not going to invest money if I can not do some serious observing so that I can really judge the equipment that is there! I think that we should have it during the new moon phase, and hold it during Memorial day when we have a decent lunar phase.




Boy are you wrong!

The one year I missed was the year they moved from Memorial Day weekend to new moon weekend. The attendance was less than half of the year before. In my club we bring about 20 people a year that year we sent two! The next year attendance (back on Memorial Day weekend) was up about 50%. Moving the date really turned off the venders and many still haven't come back. As an observing site RTMC is only fair to good. Many of us drive by better sites on the way to RTMC.


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