Inside one building was Ontario’s largest Woodworking competition, multiple categories, wildlife carving, relief carving turning, intarsia, furniture making and most had both amateur and professional classes. Master carvers like Neil Cox would be there demonstrating all three days. Master turners like Dale Nish did rotating seminars to huge audiences. Two or three seminar stages were hosted on the hour by well know woodworking personality’s.
At the show you could see up close just about every tool currently available . All the major brands were well represented with knowledgeable staff, the latter seemed to be a show must! It was the opportunity some waited for all year before laying down their hard earned cash on the saw or planer they had coveted for months. There was excitement in the air, hundreds of thousands of dollars changed hands and thousands went home eager to hook up their new tools and mill wood!
I bought my first "new" band saw at one of these shows, I knew buying one off the show floor would mean it had been gone over well to ensure it not only worked but there would not have been any defects or blemishes, not always the case when ordering sight unseen.
I entered this frenzy as one of the few vendors espousing hand tools. At my first Woodstock show Mario Rodriquez came with me compliments of Tom Lie-Nielsen, we each manned a bench in my booth. He was well recognized from his writing for Fine Woodworking magazine, a real fan favorite! I was demonstrating hand cut dovetails for the first time at a wood show and it was the first time at that wood show that dovetails were demonstrated. The gig was a big hit and folks would be ten people deep trying to get a peek. Three days shot by in a flash and while exhausted at the end, the whole event was a thrill!
Even though I was there as a vendor with expectations of big sales, I felt just as energized by the atmosphere as any of the patrons. My biggest lament was always not having the time to check it all out, walk the isles and talk to the vendors I wanted to visit with. I often told my friends how I would love to be able to go as a patron at least for a day.
This wood carnival was repeated to the same or nearly the same degree in ten other cities over the fall and winter months, Woodstock was always the first of the season. We would set up on Thursday, run the show Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Pack up Sunday night (my least favorite) so all the gear could get on its way Monday morning to the next venue. This usually meant flying home Monday morning and flying to the next city Thursday morning. The schedule was rugged but with Friends in each city it was a great time. At their invitation I often stayed with these customer/ friends instead of a hotel. The opportunity to get to know people in their home is rare, I got to do this all across this huge country.
Yes, I was there to sell tools and earn money but the big pay day was the friendships that I still have today. Permit me to wax philosophical for a moment, I met Tim Harmon at a show in Ottawa in 2001. Since then I have stayed in Tim's home more times than I can remember, I have golfed with Tim more than anyone else. He has worked countless shows with me, he has been my assistant in numerous workshops from Ontario to Alberta, he and his family have come to New Brunswick several times and have stayed in our home. I could tell similar stories of Peter in Victoria, Barry in Edmonton, Mike in Welland, Roy on Vancouver Island, Dave in Seaschelt, Duncan in Cochrane, Mark in Calgary, Lee in Toronto, Bob (RIP) in Sudbury, Claire in Markham, Charles and Mark in Halifax. These are all good friends I found by attending woodshows.
They (woodshows) are like a magnetic that attracts some of the best people in the community. I have always said this craft has the finest, perhaps it is because it requires patience to do good woodwork and patience is a great character trait. My life, especially the woodworking side, has been so enriched by meeting great people through this woodshow venue that I cant imagine it any other way.