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So what in the world is KIFIJAH?

Many modelers belong to an IPMS modeling club, or perhaps a non-affiliated club. They are a great way to meet local modelers, share techniques and tips, and add a whole new aspect of fun to our hobby. Wayne Dippold joins us today with some suggestions to help make your modeling club more fun.

So, you’re sitting home munching on your nachos and it hits you- how can I help make my model club better?Perhaps we might be able to help you out with some ideas. Who are “we”? We’re the Niagara Frontier Chapter of IPMS, the only three time National Chapter of the Year, something we are very proud of. We’ve been continually chartered with IPMS since we were founded in 1979.

How can your club be better? Quite simply, “Keep it fun, its just a hobby”, or KIFIJAH for short.

First and foremost, we don’t make any pretenses that our club is anything more than a social club. Sure, we go to meetings to learn things about building models and show off out latest, but it’s mostly to chit chat with our buddies. Our meetings are 20 minutes or so of business and an update on shows and events coming up, then it’s on to models. We always have everyone who brought in a model talk about it or them to the whole group. (Luckily, everyone seems to have a sense of humor.) Some months we have an around the room “Question of the Month” with demonstrations on the other months. The rest of the time is unstructured for swapping ideas, stories and kits. We also have 2 pizza and wing party meetings, one after our annual BuffCon Show and the other at Christmas.

Don’t get us wrong, there are some important things to running a successful club, but that’s what we have an Executive Board for. Our E-Board, made up of the “regular” officers plus 7 elected “plain old members”, is responsible for keeping things organized. The number of elected POM’s is set at about 10% of the active membership. We have a constitution that defines what the E-Board can do on it’s own and what needs to be presented to the club at large for a consensus. In effect, the E-Board does the groundwork, assesses alternatives and presents the best choices to the members for a vote. This way the membership of the club is not caught up in the day to day necessities of running the club.

With an around the room “Question of the Month”, you can really get to know the other members since everyone gets a chance to talk. Some of our favorite kinds of questions are “What was I thinking when I bought that kit?” and “What was your worst modeling accident?”. Anything that gets members talking to each other is good, and you would be surprised at some the answers that come up! With 45 to 50 members at a meeting, this consumes a lot of time but it’s worth every minute. Another aspect of our meetings is to have demonstrations of various techniques. Since our club members model in almost every category, style, medium and scale, we have a lot to draw from. It can be as simple as “how to put on decals” to “Scratch building dinosaurs from coat hangers and Sculpey”. Demos are a good way to get people to interact with each other. By sharing ideas and techniques, everyone becomes a better modeler.

We’ve been successful in funding our meeting place rental through the proceeds from BuffCon, so dues are kept low. Dues are enough to cover newsletter expenses, including mailings to local shops and local IPMS clubs. “Dizpatch”, our newsletter, is intended to keep our members informed about what is going on in the club and about upcoming shows. Each issues covers what happened at the last meeting, a writeup of all the models on the tables, kit reviews, both semi-serious and slightly tongue-in-cheek, occasional tips and a smattering of philosophy. We believe it’s added quite a bit of cohesiveness to the club, especially for those members who can’t make each meeting.

Running a local show is an excellent way to promote the hobby and involve all the club members. Set up a show committee to handle the day to day stuff like booking a hall, selling vendor tables and the like. That keeps the grunt work out of the regular meeting. Treat the show as a business within this committee. Make and keep schedules and assignments, advertise to the general public as well as other clubs, think about details and resolve problems before the show. Make sure you have opportunities for many members to work admission, registration and refreshments so that everyone can get out to shop and look at the entries. It’s real easy to burn up someone’s enthusiasm by overworking them, even if they want to work.

GO TO SHOWS! Some of the best times we have ever had have been on our road trips. If a contest is within 3 or 4 hours driving time, we’re there. Most of the time we have 10 to 15 guys going. Collectively known as the “Travelling Tonys”, we all meet for breakfast and caravan to the shows. This gives us all a chance to keep up with our friends in different towns. It’s a great opportunity to discuss models and the world in general, not to mention the stories that come out of the trips, like the little jokes we play on each other or locking your keys in the car WITH it running or even the presidential “pie in the face” bet at dinner. The more you can keep the members involved with club events, the more fun the entire group has. There’s just no reason to be a hermit sniffing lacquer fumes all the time. Besides, if you want people to go to your show, you need to go to theirs.

If you’ve never held a kid’s building class, do one. We can honestly say that we have never seen so many grown men have such a good time with the hobby. It makes you realize that maybe you have been taking the hobby just a little to seriously. When that 8 year old decides that he wants to paint his Corsair gloss black with white polka dots, or the 6 year old wants his Wehrmacht VW Beetle bright blue with a red top, you remember why you first started building models. It’s not because you wanted to make a perfect, historically accurate Tiger tank, but because you needed something to go up against Billy’s Sherman out in the sandpile. An enduring aspect to kid’s clinics is that you are introducing new people to the hobby. This is what will insure that model companies will continue to put out kits for us to buy. Plus, IPMS/USA is more than happy to help get you going with some kits for the kids.

Remember, you are your club. If you want you club to be stronger, you need to help it along. You can’t sit back and wait for someone else to do it, because, unfortunately, they’re probably waiting for someone else to do it too. Be active, get involved and enjoy the company of those around you. Get interested in the other types of models. If you’re into aircraft, talk to a tank builder; if you’re a tank builder, talk to a ship guy or whatever. It’s all about having a group of people that get along, want to spend time with each other and have some fun.