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Pezhead Monthly
May 2012

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NE PezCon 14, Part 1: The Arrival And The Pez Visitor's Center top of page | cover page

(Editor's Note: The NEPezCon 14 recap is so lengthy that I have decided to split it into two parts. In Part 1 below, I mainly focus on my trip to the Pez Visitor's Center. In Part 2, which will be published in the June 2012 issue, I'll mainly focus on the VIP tour of the Pez factory. 

Regarding the Pez Visitor's Center, after you read the recap and see the pictures, it may feel like you've already been there. Let me assure you, though, that NOTHING can beat actually going to Orange, Connecticut, and experiencing it for yourself! Go here for details.

Lastly, I have higher res versions of most pictures included in this recap, and will gladly send them upon request.)

Recently I had the extreme pleasure and privilege to attend NE PezCon 14 in Stamford Connecticut. This was another fantastic Pez convention that just so happened to provide me with some of the best moments I have ever had as a Pezhead.

The Calm Before The Storm

Last year was my first time at NE PezCon. This year, to save some money and also because I did not want to deal with the hassle of air travel and getting a rental car, I decided to drive. So, I threw a bunch of songs on the iPod, set aside a whole lot of gas money, and hit the road for an epic road trip. It was about 14 hours from my place to the convention, so I split the drive up both to and from the hotel. So, I guess if you count the 2 overnight hotel rooms along the way, and, yes, all that gas money, I did not save all that much. But, whatever. I was still glad to have my own car and the ability to come and go on my own terms.

(Quick tip for those travelling east: Pennsylvania is a very wide state! But definitely choose the I-80 over the I-70, as there are considerably less tolls on that route. I learned that one the hard way!)

So I arrived at the hotel early Thursday evening, quite tired from the road. I had just missed the swap party, where non-dealers could buy, sell, and trade from each other in a central location. In recent years I had come to enjoy this part of the convention, as I always seem to have some extras to sell, and it’s always fun to give away back issues of previous Pez Poetry Slams. I brought just a few extras to Connecticut this year, and although I did not get to sell them, I will bring them to Cleveland in July for Pezamania, to hopefully sell or trade them there.

After once again meeting the wonderful convention hosts Richie and Mary, picking up my registration packet (including the special lanyard and pass needed for certain convention events), and getting some dinner, my energy level started to decline drastically. I did manage to do a small amount of room hopping. I quickly found Russ and Rick’s room, where I was pleased to find and purchase the new HyVee promotional hauler and Pirate Puck European dispenser. But, after just a few more rooms, I shuffled back to my own room and was soon in bed. I knew that the next day was going to be magical, and I could not wait for it to arrive. Like a kid waiting for Santa, it was hard to wind down at first, but eventually I faded off to sleep. I’d say that while I slept, visions of Pez dispensers danced in my head, but let’s face facts: that happens even when I’m awake.

To Visit, Perchance To Dream

Friday started out with quite a grand experience, one that was in fact the main reason why I found myself in Stamford on that mild Spring weekend: an exclusive bus trip from NE PezCon 14 to the new Visitor’s Center at the Pez factory in Orange, Connecticut. When Richie announced that this would be happening, way back during last year’s NE PezCon, I knew this was an opportunity that I simply could not pass up. Even if money was going to be a little tight, even if I was trying to stay closer to home this year, I did not want to look back and realize that I missed out on this. This feeling was only magnified when I learned that convention goers would also be treated to an exclusive VIP tour of the Pez factory itself. By the beard of Zeus!

Several buses left the convention hotel that Friday morning, starting at 8am. All of them jam-packed with Pezheads from around the world, eager for the experience. And when I say “from around the world”, that’s no exaggeration: there were people from the US West coast, Germany, Austria, Israel, and I am sure many, many other places both near and far.

I was on the last bus, leaving at 11am, and quite thankful for it. In addition to not exactly being a morning person, I knew when planning for the convention that any rest I could get after the long drive to the convention would be much needed.

Most of us gathered in the lobby about a half an hour before the bus took off. However, Richie was really scrambling to round up a few people who weren’t there yet. He said that a few people on earlier buses had missed them. Now, don’t get me wrong. I know plans change, alarms are forgotten, and what have you. But I could not imagine that people would purposefully miss this, after signing up and making the trek all the way to Connecticut from who knows where. Hopefully those people who missed the bus were able to make it to the Visitor’s Center regardless (as it was also open to the public), even if they were not able to make it to the VIP factory tour.

Finally, 11am came and we all boarded the bus. I was armed with my trusty backpack, which had my iPad (complete with pictures of my collection), some copies of the 2011 Pez Poetry Slam (one of which would be put to great use later in the day), my black hoodie, and as many Pez-filled hopes and dreams that would fit. And spending money, definitely spending money. On the bus, I chatted with some nice Pezheads who I had not met before. We swapped stories about our collections and what we were hunting for at this convention. We all agreed that this bus trip was a special experience, and it was quite nice to be having that shared feeling with everyone.

Less than an hour later, we arrived at the Pez factory. Now, I had stopped by the factory after last year’s convention, but that was before the Visitor’s Center was built, and the factory was also closed because it was Saturday. This time around, it was quite a different story.

As the bus pulled around the corner, we got our first glimpse at the Visitor’s Center. Complete with three giant rolls of Pez candy on the exterior! I peered out the window and saw a long line just waiting to get into the place. Most people were staying on the bus, but I simply could not sit still. I jumped up and got right off that bus, and got a closer look at those giant candy rolls. And, I got a peek at the back end of all of the Pez that was for sale inside. And, oh yeah, that line. But I was not fazed. I even asked one of my new Pezhead friends to take a picture of me in front of the building.

That’s me in the green Pez shirt in front. I was a little surprised to not see anyone else wearing that particular t-shirt that day. But I was much, much more surprised to notice someone wearing a Pezhead Monthly t-shirt a short while later! (That someone would be Lisa Martell, who was nice enough to contribute multiple poems to last year’s Pez Poetry Slam. Thanks again, Lisa!)

After a few more minutes of gazing at that line, wondering when we’d ever get into the place, I turned to see Richie hold up a bright pink piece of paper and simply march towards the door. I looked around and noticed other Pezheads from the bus following him, and I joined the crowd. We were walking right in, ahead of the line! I felt bad for those people who were already waiting, but frankly, not too bad. After all, Pez collectorship has its privileges!

When I entered the first set of doors, I was greeted with a couple of great spectacles. The first, right in the middle of that room and hung from the ceiling, was the legendary Pez chopper. Then, there was a giant wall of Pez dispensers. Holy cow!

Atop the door to the main room, a sign welcomed us in:

Thanks! Great to be here! “You’re welcome”, I heard the sign speak to me. Thanks! Great to be here! “You’re welcome”, I heard the sign speak to me. Thanks! Great to be here! “You’re welcome”, I heard the sign speak to me. I was like, woah.

But enough of this frivolity. It was time to get down to business. Admittedly, a business that was itself strongly intertwined with frivolity. But still.

I walked through that next set of doors, and that’s when it really hit me: I had arrived. All of these years as a Pez collector, from the initial days in college, to all of the conventions, to the tireless hunting in stores, flea markets, eBay… it had all led me to here. A bit melodramatic? Perhaps. But all around me at that moment were reminders of who I’ve been for almost half of my life: an unapologetic Pezhead, filled with admiration for a hobby filled with so much color, history, pop culture, art, laughter, joy, fun, life. There was a palpable feeling of good in that room. It was real, and wonderful, and honestly I was getting a little dizzy. I felt it instantly, with an intensity that had been unmatched since my first Pez convention back in 2001.

I looked up- way up- to behold a very cool sight: a giant, motorized Pez dispenser!

Now that’s what I’m talking about. To get a quick glimpse of the giant dispenser in action, click here.

Then I looked down, at eye level, and noticed the crowds. This place was jam packed. It reminded me of the Saturday floor show at Pez conventions, or the couple of times I’ve been to Chicago Comic-Con. It was a bit overwhelming to have that many people all around. The place  was filled with curious travelers, lots of kids (no doubt enjoying some spring break fun and a day off of school), and of course many other Pezheads from my bus and I am sure a few other buses that left prior to ours. I had mixed feelings about this. While it was really hard to move around, and there were lines pretty much everywhere you turned, it was also quite nice to see so many people come out to check out this great place. Whether they came on a bus or in a Honda Civic, these were people who appreciated Pez and made a special trip out there to learn and experience more about it. When it comes down to it, that’s not a bad thing at all.



Part 1 of the NE PezCon 14 recap continues here and contains a LOT more pictures!


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