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 Post subject: The First National Bonsai Exhibition – A Cinderella Story?
PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 12:12 am 
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The First National Bonsai Exhibition – A Cinderella Story?
by Will Heath*

All photographs were taken by AoB editors, who were granted exclusive permission to photograph in all areas of the exhibit, including the exhibit room. Individual pictures of the trees are withheld, pending publication in the exhibit book, in order to help fund this years exhibit.



Image
Photograph by Paul Stokes


This last weekend, America experienced its first National Bonsai Exhibit in Rochester, New York. Few would disagree that this event was historic and that it certainly was the first step of many needed to raise the level of bonsai in this country to a level comparable to that of other countries. It was a needed step to raise the perception of American Bonsai, not only in the eyes of other countries, but also in the eyes of many Americans themselves. Fewer still would disagree that, like all roses, it had a few thorns that will serve to remind us that even the sweetest fragrance is not without flaw and that there is always room for improvement.

Thorns aside, the story of American Bonsai and the long awaited exhibition is one of rags to riches, of underdogs, of paupers, princes, hand servants, and of a few people daring to dream. In my opinion, it is a Cinderella story, in fact, the First National Exhibition is filled with Cinderella stories, just a few of which I will mention here.

American bonsai has long been considered the redheaded stepchild of world bonsai. Often ridiculed, chastised, and belittled by wicked stepsisters, it was never given the credit it deserved. Dressed in rags, it seemed impossible that American bonsai could ever climb out of the bucket of hobbyists and take a serious place on the world bonsai scene. Strangely, sometimes its own artists were its worst enemies, often catering to those looking overseas instead of at home for inspiration and fertilizing the excuses of distance, logistics and finance often put forth in debate against a successful national exhibit. The few real artists here found it difficult to support themselves, often lowering their own standards in order to meet the expectations imposed upon them by clubs and shows that demanded Japanese or European bonsai and artists.

There were no national quality shows as there were in Europe and Asia, just a few regional shows, good in quality, but limited in scope. There was lots of talk, many excuses, and generally a whole lot of doing nothing. We wore the rags, pretended everything was okay, and continued saying that our efforts were just as good as an other efforts in the world, even though the few in the know said differently and even when such contests such as the North American vs Europe Photo Contest here at AoB plainly showed otherwise.

Then one day the bonsai fairy godmother, in the form of William Valavanis (sorry Bill), paid American bonsai a visit, he brought the skill, the drive, the contacts, and the magic needed to make such a historic event happen.

Turning his staff into horsemen, a moving van into a magic carriage, and using the internet as a wand, he dressed American bonsai in the finest clothing, draped it with the jewels of display, brushed it with promotion, and brought it all together in a place the size of a castle glowing with its own historical background. By accident or design, American bonsai was brought back to health, energized, and renewed in no less a location than a hospital!

This is the stuff fairy tales are made of.


Image
Photograph by Paul Stokes


Against all odds, contrary to what many said, in spite of what many claimed to be impossible, with a dream, some organization, and a dash of magic, Cinderella went to the ball.

What many said could not be done, would never work, could not draw trees from the far reaches of this huge country, was done, did work, and did draw. Valavanis and his team hosted the ball and Cinderella arrived in all her glory, American bonsai danced throughout the weekend, captivating all who watched, charming all who came from America as well as from many countries around the world. Beauty, grace, and magic all combined to make the impossible possible.

The weekend ended, the clock struck midnight, Cinderella left, but she left changed, leaving behind a glass slipper of hope in all our hearts, hope that the next national Exhibit on Father’s Day weekend in 2010 brings even more inspiration, motivation, and satisfaction for all of us.

And yet, the cynics are already talking of too many trees in too small of an area, of gurneys and stretchers, of poor lighting, and of knowing a friend of a friend of an uncle, twice removed, that has better trees than were exhibited, but the magic of the weekend cannot be dismissed. There are huge debates raging about award winners, judges, conspiracies, the wicked stepsisters can not believe Cinderella’s foot fits the glass slipper and are demanding that it be tried again.

Sometimes bonsai people complain of the thorns so much that they cannot remember the color of the rose. For those who may have missed it, the color of this rose was success.

From rags to riches, America’s Cinderella is the National Bonsai Exhibit, we have danced at the ball of world bonsai, maybe our steps were a bit off, maybe our gown was a bit dated, but we danced, America has arrived.


Hidden inside this amazing Cinderella story is another story, no less fascinating, no less amazing, no less magical…



Image
Photograph by Paul Stokes


Imagine a man, active on a couple Internet forums; a quite, unassuming man who posts his trees regularly and often receives less than favorable critique by his peers. Envision a nice person, not taken to posting negative comments and not one to get involved in heated debates or attacks, instead ignoring them, taking no sides. A Cinderella taking the slights and innuendos of the wicked stepsisters graciously, never letting such deter him, but instead just enjoying bonsai and posting his trees in open forums and entering them in contests.

You are imagining a man named Mike Page.

Mike page entered the Art of Bonsai Awards this year. There was nothing special about this year, Mike has always entered AoB contests and in fact, he often submits more entries in our contests than any other single person. Low score, high score, win, lose, draw, he never changes, we can count on Mike to be one of the first people entering any of our contests, and we can count on him entering a lot.

Mike was in for a surprise, this year the bonsai fairy godmother decided to visit AoB in the form of a sponsor. One of Mike’s trees was selected as the winner of the National Bonsai Exhibit Sponsor Award featured in our contest. Almost instantly, the stepsisters (myself included) started complaining that Cinderella was not worthy, others were prettier, more deserving, that the bonsai fairy godmother had finally went blind as a bat in a tanning bed. It was demanded that the glass pot be tried on again, it just could not fit that Black Pines foot. Certainly, this was a lark, a mistake soon to be corrected, right? RIGHT?

Ah, the magic of it all… As the prize, Mike’s Black Pine was exhibited at the First National Bonsai Exhibit; an honor only received by a select few.

Cinderella went to the ball.

She danced in a corner, hid between other dancers, tucked in the middle of the maze that made up the display isles. At the ball with many of the very best trees from America, some were sure she was out of place, they claimed her rags were showing and that she was beneath the real bonsai displayed. However, while the princes were passing by, they were stopped in their tracks when they caught a glimpse of her. They pulled her out; they danced, they fell in love while the stepsisters whispered their disgust.

Cinderella not only danced at the ball, she won the love of the princes!

One of many entries of the Art of Bonsai Awards was selected as the winner of the National Bonsai Exhibit’s Sponsor Award, winning the honor to be displayed at the historical First National Bonsai Exhibit, and then surprised us all by winning there as well!

Ah, the underdog story, the rags to riches story, stuff of fairy tales, stories for children because we, as adults, know better.

There are other such stories intertwined in this historic exhibit, indeed, AoB itself found itself dancing at the ball, after years of the stepsisters saying how unworthy we were, but that’s another story, the point here has been made, the National Exhibit was not only historical, it was magical.

Against all odds, in spite of the wicked stepsisters, the First National Bonsai Exhibit has happened, Cinderella danced at the ball. The next exhibit will not be so difficult, the path has been blazed, and William Valavanis will be remembered as the man who pulled it all together.

He did it!

America is no longer without a National Exhibit, that milestone has been reached, now we can improve upon, build upon, and lean on the foundation that was built this year by Valavanis and his team, by all those who exhibited their bonsai, by the sponsors, donors, patrons, judges, artists, and all those who came to be part of it. We should all be proud and we should all be honored, after all, when is the next time we will have a chance to be part of the First National Bonsai exhibit here in America? Especially with stories such as these, stories deserving to be told to our grandchildren and to theirs…

Magical indeed.



The Awards Banquet

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Exhibition Judges Peter Warren, Pedro Morales, and Seiji Morimae
Photograph by Candy J. Shirey




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Chase Rosade, Dan Robinson, Solita Rosade, and friends
Photograph by Will Heath



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Warren Hill and friends
Photograph by Will Heath



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Pedro Morales and friends
Photograph by Will Heath



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Mike Pollock, Colin Lewis, Marty Schmalenberg, and friends
Photograph by Will Heath



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James Daly, Guy Guidry, Candy Shirey, Will Heath, Paul Stokes, Rob Kempinski, Kim Mazzatto, and friends
Photograph by Chris Guidry



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Guy Guidry, Candy Shirey
Photograph by Will Heath




The Exhibit


Video of the Ribbon cutting ceremony by Paul Stokes

Image
Photograph by Paul Stokes


Image
Photograph by Paul Stokes


Image
Photograph by Paul Stokes


Image
Photograph by Paul Stokes


Image
Photograph by Paul Stokes


Image
Photograph by Paul Stokes


Image
Photograph by Paul Stokes


Image
Photograph by Paul Stokes




For an official report on this historic event and more pictures, see Bill Valavanis's post at http://internetbonsaiclub.org/index.php ... ic=24246.0

Addition photographs can be seen on Candy Shirey's flickr page at
http://www.flickr.com/photos/candyjshirey

Rob Kempinski has some great photographs and a well written review on his blog at http://www.knowledgeofbonsai.org/rob_kempinski/


*About Will Heath


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 Post subject: The First National Bonsai Exhibition – A Cinderella Story?
PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 12:15 am 
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Joined: Mon Oct 24, 2005 8:51 pm
Posts: 1442
Location: WI, USA
And the winners are . . .

National Bonsai Award
Awarded for the finest bonsai specimen of the National Exhibit
Jim Gremel - Occidental, CAl
Attachment:
winners_006.jpg
winners_006.jpg [ 91.84 KiB | Viewed 14812 times ]


Meco Bonsai/Kiku Tools Award
Awarded for the finest evergreen bonsai specimen of the National Exhibit
Scott Elser - Portland, OR
Western Hemlock

Yoshi Bonsai Tool Award
Awarded for the finest deciduous bonsai specimen of the National Exhibit
Martin Scmalenberg - Stillwater, NJ

Judges Award
Awarded for the finest tropical bonsai specimen of the National Exhibit
Eric Wigert - Bokeelia, FL
Bougainvilla
Attachment:
winners_002.jpg
winners_002.jpg [ 21.94 KiB | Viewed 14761 times ]



Yoshimura Award
Awarded for the finest bonsai of classical design of the National Exhibit
Mike Page, South San Francisco, CA
Black Pine (Yes, this is the AoB Awards Sponsor Award winner)
Attachment:
winners_001.jpg
winners_001.jpg [ 33.63 KiB | Viewed 14720 times ]



Centre Award
Awarded for an outstanding combination of a bonsai with a container
Julian Adams - Lynchburg, VA
Attachment:
winners_005.jpg
winners_005.jpg [ 37.52 KiB | Viewed 14711 times ]



Ho Yoku Award
Awarded for the most creative western formal display at the National Exhibit
1st - James Gillespie - Danielsville, PA
Attachment:
winners_007.jpg
winners_007.jpg [ 32.2 KiB | Viewed 14701 times ]


2nd - Ron Lang - Reedsville, PA
Attachment:
winners_003.jpg
winners_003.jpg [ 41.71 KiB | Viewed 6718 times ]


3rd - Michael Pollock - Pound Ridge, NY
Attachment:
winners_004.jpg
winners_004.jpg [ 26.34 KiB | Viewed 14650 times ]


Custom Oriental Woodcraft Award - Best Shohin
Awarded for the best shohin display at the National Exhibit
Suthin Sukosolvisit - Stoughton, MA
Attachment:
winners_001.jpg
winners_001.jpg [ 31.06 KiB | Viewed 14580 times ]


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 Post subject: Re: The First National Bonsai Exhibition – A Cinderella Story?
PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 9:55 am 
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Joined: Thu Mar 03, 2005 2:06 am
Posts: 91
Location: Melbourne, Florida USA
Thanks for the report Will, I understand the theme of the Cinderella story, but perhaps AoB needs to discuses the other trees that were there as well.


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 Post subject: Re: The First National Bonsai Exhibition – A Cinderella Story?
PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 11:19 am 
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Joined: Sat Jan 29, 2005 2:11 am
Posts: 6469
Location: Michigan USA
You are quite right Rob, thank you.

This reveiw, like most conent here at AoB is meant to be dynamic, growing as we and others add our thoughts to it, perhaps you will post some of your own thoughts on the exhibit as well as other trees?

There were so many excellent trees, so little time....I have yet to compile my own thoughts on many of them. I do know that I was thrilled to see "Twister" there and to have participated in moving that monster. (Thanks Guy)



Will


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 Post subject: Re: The First National Bonsai Exhibition – A Cinderella Story?
PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 9:33 pm 
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Joined: Thu Mar 03, 2005 2:06 am
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Location: Melbourne, Florida USA
Well there was so much to discuss about the First National US Exhibition.

One topic I was very pleased about was the variety of trees displayed. I did a little analysis of the trees and wrote down all the names of the shohin species which were not included in the show catalogue.
I then added them by type and posted the data here for review


Here is some info on the wide variety of trees displayed.
Tree Species Count
Sargents Juniper Shimpaku 14
Trident Maple 13
Japanese White Pine 10
Japanese Maple 10
Japanese Black Pine 8
Satsuki Azalea 7
Chinese Elm 6
Dwarf Hinoki Cypress 5
Gingko 5
Korean Hornbeam 5
Buttonwood 4
Ponderosa Pine 4
Willow Leaf Fig 4
Crabapple 3
Eastern White Cedar 3
Scots Pine 3
Apple 3
Japanese Red Pine 3
Privet 3
Nia 2
American Larch 2
Pitch Pine 2
California Juniper 2
San Jose Juniper 2
Indian Laural Fig 2
Firethorn 2
Little Gem Dwarf Spruce 2
Western Hemlock 1
Japanese Holly 1
Juniper robusta 1
Ashe Juniper 1
Asian Hornbeam (H. laxiflora) 1
Japanese Beech 1
Eastern Red Cedar 1
Blue Moss Cypress 1
Atlas Cedar 1
Oriental Bittersweet 1
European White Birch 1
Texas Persimmon 1
Porcelain Berry 1
Kurume Azalea 1
Rocky Mountain Juniper 1
Chinese Quince 1
Limber Pine 1
Senoran Scrub Oak 1
Mountain Hemlock 1
Texas Mustang Grape 1
Red Maple 1
Sugar Hackberry 1
Prostrata Juniper 1
Japanese Boxwood 1
Corkbark Japanese Black Pine 1
Aussy Pine 1
Wild Plum 1
Pomegrante 1
Japanese Spindle Tree 1
Jaboticaba 1
Dwarf Black Olive 1
Blaauw Juniper 1
Bougainvillea 1
Colorado Blue Spruce 1
Bald Cypress 1
Needlepoint Ivy 1
Mugho Pine 1
Fukien tea 1
Chinese Hackberry 1
Winged Elm 1
Ilex Vomitoria nana schllings 1
Japanese Hornbeam 1
Kingsville Boxwood 1
Dwarf Norway Spruce 1
Japanese Yew 1
Cotoneaster 1
Dwarf Gardenia 1
Needle Juniper 1
Parsons Juniper 1
Common Juniper 1
Japanese Quince 1
Zelkova Elm 1
Lemon Hill Juniper 1
Ezo Spruce 1
Coastal Redwood 1

I figure there were about 184 trees of 83 different species and of those species almost half were native North American species. Bill should be commended for arranging so many top notch trees of such variety - and the US should be proud to have so many different well done bonsai varieties.


Last edited by Rob Kempinski on Sat Oct 18, 2008 10:53 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: The First National Bonsai Exhibition – A Cinderella Story?
PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 10:12 pm 
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Joined: Thu Mar 03, 2005 2:06 am
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Location: Melbourne, Florida USA
Regarding the awards, I'll start by saying congratulations to all the winners. It was a fun evening watching the excitement of the winners.
Judging is subjective and I am not nitpicking the selections I am just offering my own subjective opinion about the trees. Overall the trees were all top notch. Bill had a very discriminating eye in selecting the juried trees.

Ron Lang's creative display was the most original at the show and really set a standard for a western artistic display. He broke from the Asian tradition quite successfully and to me offered one of the most interesting aspects of the show. I would imagine the reason he didn't win first place was the tree could have been a bit more powerful.

As for the little Jack o lantern with the electric light - hmm, I wouldn't even put one of these in my house for Halloween. That had to be approaching kitsch where I don't believe good western display needs to go. I feel a top notch tree should have top notch other art work/artefacts displayed along with it. Anything you can buy at Walmart probably shouldn't go in a major art installation.

The tropical tree award caught me by surprise - I have mixed feelings about it. First a good tree is a good tree whether it is tropical or not. Distinguishing tropical trees from temperate trees is the exact opposite direction we should be going with a global bonsai approach. While it was generous of the judges to put up their money for the award, I'm not sure it was necessary.

I really liked the Coastal Redwood as that tree captures the essence of a tall tree magnificently. It was my favorite. I now know it was out of the judging competition. I wonder if anyone can find a photo of it?

The shohin displays really were a highlight of the show. The attention to detail and the neat little trees displayed in groups held their own and in some cases out shown the larger trees. Pauline Muth's shohin elm planting/penjing in the mini-display case was very well done and rated very highly in my book.

My friend who drove up with me is not into bonsai but he said he like the Chinese Elm forest by the Montreal Botanical Garden as his favorite. I counted over 30 trees immaculately prepared in it.

The show logo was very cool. I was glad to buy a hat with it and will wear it to my next club meeting.

Overall the exhibition really had a lot to offer and was an exciting showcase of American bonsai talent. Well done to all exhibitors.


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 Post subject: Re: The First National Bonsai Exhibition – A Cinderella Story?
PostPosted: Tue Oct 21, 2008 9:19 am 
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Location: Michigan USA
Some articles from around the web on the exhibition:

http://www.democratandchronicle.com/art ... 1032/RSS05


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 Post subject: Re: The First National Bonsai Exhibition – A Cinderella Story?
PostPosted: Fri Oct 24, 2008 11:29 pm 
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Posts: 86
Location: New England, USA
Rob Kempinski wrote:
As for the little Jack o lantern with the electric light - hmm, I wouldn't even put one of these in my house for Halloween. That had to be approaching kitsch ....


Rob,
The Ho Yoku Award was for the best western formal display, and the criteria were to achieve the same end as a formal Japanese display but with a western theme and western elements. Ron Lang's display, although the most innovative by far, did not fit that brief. However, it deserved some recognition for breaking the mold. The eventual winner was agreed by all judges and did conform to the brief. Kitsch? Hmmm, how kitsch is it to use rocks and alpines and mail-order scrolls in an attempt to appear Japanese? I personally thought it had charm and wit, and it was uniquely "America in October". Next time around, I'll redefine the award to focus more on innovative planting and/or design concepts.

Whilst on definition of awards.... Much of the controversy over the Yoshimura Award was, I believe, a result of the not entirely accurate title, that is to say the use of the word classical. According to definition, 'classical' and the bonsai style 'bunjingi' are mutually exclusive.


Rob Kempinski wrote:
The tropical tree award caught me by surprise - I have mixed feelings about it. First a good tree is a good tree whether it is tropical or not. Distinguishing tropical trees from temperate trees is the exact opposite direction we should be going with a global bonsai approach.


Granted the best tree in a show is the best tree, and one day it may be a tropical species. There is an award for the best deciduous species and another for the best conifer, recognizing the different horticultural, aesthetic and technical challenges and their intrinsically different natures. Similarly, tropicals also have their own unique challenges and nature, and those who conquer them deserve recognition.

I, too, was mightily impressed by the shohin - and the trees from the west coast. I just hope someone will make the trip with trees next time and beyond. For the first time in the USA I felt the same 'camaraderie' and excitement that I felt at similar events in Europe, and saw trees of similar quality.

I have only one reservation: the venue. A great building, but the available space, the lighting and the catering left something to be desired. Who cares?! It was a great show anyway!


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 Post subject: Re: The First National Bonsai Exhibition – A Cinderella Story?
PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2008 8:54 pm 
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Posts: 4
Will,

I'm not sure why you consider Mike Page a Cinderella story. As far as I can see, he already won a contest before the National exhibit so he came to the National exhibit already a Prince. He won one of the numerous categories but was not the overall winner of the exhibit. Jim Gremel's cascade won that. Mike's tree was very controversial and won the praise of only a few select exhibit judges. The majority of participants at the exhibit were perplexed by its selection. Apparently only people fortunate enough to have observed bonsai in Japan were qualified to see its inner beauty. The fact that he has endured severe negative criticism with grace and equanimity is admirable but describing him as a "Cinderella" story is not accurate.

It's been fascinating to me to see the attention that his tree has attracted. The trees that should be praised and discussed are the other winners. Jim Gremel's tree, Marty Schmalenbergs trees etc, the other winners, have been neglected. These trees were so spectacular and breathtaking that their qualities should be discussed in detail. Some of the trees that did not win were also phenomenal. I stood in front of the cedar cascade for quite a while and was so drawn into it, that it was hard to move on. David Easterbrook's forest: Come one- its a masterpiece. Guy Guidry's "twister": I might not have seen the wind blowing through it but I sure felt the swamp swirling around its trunk. Shouldn't we be talking about these other trees instead of the lightweights?


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 Post subject: Re: The First National Bonsai Exhibition – A Cinderella Story?
PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2008 9:38 pm 
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Joined: Sun Apr 03, 2005 7:18 pm
Posts: 56
Location: Upstate New York
I find it fascinating that you seem obsessed with Mike Page and his Bonsai,while you complain that
know one is talking about all the other trees.
You are correct that there were many amazing trees displayed. Why not write as much about them?
Peter Warren wrote a most insightful explanation on Mike's Bonsai. If you still do not appreciate it you probably never will.
That is ok, everyone does not have to see things the same way. In answer to your question, Yes ! PLEASE talk about all the other wonderful trees you saw and did enjoy!

Mark


Last edited by Mark Arpag on Tue Nov 18, 2008 1:09 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: The First National Bonsai Exhibition – A Cinderella Story?
PostPosted: Tue Nov 18, 2008 12:47 am 
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Joined: Sat Jan 29, 2005 2:11 am
Posts: 6469
Location: Michigan USA
Paul Krasner wrote:
Will,

I'm not sure why you consider Mike Page a Cinderella story. As far as I can see, he already won a contest before the National exhibit so he came to the National exhibit already a Prince. He won one of the numerous categories but was not the overall winner of the exhibit. Jim Gremel's cascade won that.

I am under the understanding that there was no grand prize, instead there were only winners of separate categories. In this sense, Jim's tree was no more a winner than Mike's tree was, they both won awards at the First national Exhibit.

As to why I consider it a Cinderella story, no one would have given this tree any more of a chance of winning an award in the AoB Awards or the National Exhibit than they would have given a rag wearing, soot covered girl going to the ball, let alone marrying the prince. In this sense, the comparison is indeed accurate.

Paul Krasner wrote:
Mike's tree was very controversial and won the praise of only a few select exhibit judges.

There were three judges, all agreed with the decision, your statement that only a few judges praised it is incorrect.

Paul Krasner wrote:
Shouldn't we be talking about these other trees instead of the lightweights?

Absolutely, we would be happy to publish anything you want to submit, or you can post in the "Art of Bonsai" section here. Anyone is free to discuss anything, please allow me my freedom to write on the subjects that I wish.

However, I did mention some other trees briefly in this review viewtopic.php?f=29&t=2680



Will


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 Post subject: Re: The First National Bonsai Exhibition – A Cinderella Story?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 15, 2009 1:41 am 
What is the difference between a conference and exhibition?venues charge double for the same room for an exhib. What is the difference in definition between a conference and an exhibition? I notice that some venues charge more for the same room if it is to be used for an "exhibition" than for a "conference". What is the justification for this.


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 Post subject: Re: The First National Bonsai Exhibition – A Cinderella Story?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 15, 2009 4:51 am 
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Joined: Mon May 29, 2006 10:43 pm
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Location: Mexico, Merida
Do stay on the subject and use real names in this forums.


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