I've just returned from a whistle stop visit to Lexington, Kentucky and attending the annual model horse celebration known as BreyerFest (hosted by Breyer Model Horses), and the festivities associated with it. The event brings together over 10,000 model horse collectors from all over the globe in a celebration of model horses to the horse capital of the USA, Lexington. A bit of trivia for you, did you know that Lexington is twinned with the British horse capital- Newmarket, where the Utterly Horses Hullabaloo was held? Cool, huh? In four words, my visit was a-s-t-o-n-i-s-h-i-n-g! In a few more words, it was overwhelming, mind-boggling and staggering. I was extremely stunned, gracious and above them all, honoured to have visited and met so many fabulous people.
My trip started early Wednesday morning, with a pre-dawn start to catch the bus down to Heathrow airport to board one of two flights needed to get to Lexington. I'm quite use to long haul flights by now (especially after the 12 hour plane rides to Hong Kong) and so I settled down for the 9 hour journey into Atlanta. A drink or two (a G&T of course!), a meal (Virgin Atlantic has the best plane food, not that I'm an airline food connoisseur or anything!) and 3 films later (Batman vs Superman was FAB!) I arrived in Atlanta, which is one of the biggest hubs in the USA. What I didn't anticipate next was the hour and an half queue to get through passport control. Instead of panic at the prospect of missing my connecting flight, I did want any Brit abroad would do. I calmly pulled a book from my bag, turned the first page, planted my feet and participated in the British national sport of.... queuing! Us Brits are champions!! When I did reach the desk and the lovely passport man asked why I was visiting- whilst scanning my fingerprints and taking a very unflattering picture- I don't think he anticipated my response. He chuckled, looked a little confused and certainly agreed that he had never stamped the passport of someone attending a model horse convention before- and i did what? Make model horses? Insert a puzzled look here!!
I did make my next flight as luckily, I did have a couple of hours to spare, and boarded a little plane (well, little compared a 747) to wing my way into Lexington. Flying internally in the USA is much like boarding a bus which is kind of mind boggling to us British who consider an 2 hour journey as a trip to the end of the earth, whereas as someone else would consider it "just down the road". Perspectives are a funny thing!!
Once landing, commandeering a taxi and locating the Clarion Hotel, I found my room and a wonderful sight greeted me. 11 big brown cardboard boxes each with Copperfox on the side and our orange/white packing tape sitting in my hotel room. I swear they almost waved hello and said "where have you been?" These boxes contained everything we could pull together for our last minute trip- 100 blank canvas models, 30 boxed limited edition models, 10 samples, 3 giveaway and raffle models, Copperfox Merchandise, pins, scarfs, posters, signs, tablecloths, decorations, tape and of course, the biggest Union Jack we could find at short notice. I was ready to create a pop up Copperfox shop!
Thursday started early with re-juggling the hotel room. I must apologise to my room neighbours who probably wondered what on earth someone was doing at that time in the morning (it was 7am Kentucky time, which is 12pm London time so I had a long lay-in by UK standards!!) My mission was to transform a hotel room into the pop-up shop using only materials found in the room, cardboard boxes and masking tape. Being brought up on Blue Peter, having a love of creating things and relishing in a challenge, I rolled my sleeves up, turned up the tunes on the radio and set to work!!
The below image is of halfway through the transformation. I moved the fridge, TV, table and chairs. I banished the microwave and coffee machine to the bathroom, hid the extra pillows and utilised the ironing board as an extra table. House Keeping would have had a heart attack!! Bunting was hung, flags were raised and the Copperfox pop up shop took shape!
This is how the room finished (below). I had a display of our limited edition models balanced on top of a sideboard crafted of cardboard which would have earned me a Blue Peter badge. One of the beds had transformed into the Copperfox Merchandise section, complete with hoodies, tee shirts, scarves and our Union Jack/Copperfox pins. The other bed was the blank canvas department, showcasing our white models that can be transformed into a new customised creation. The fridge became a pedestal for a couple of limited edition models looking for a new homes, the bedside table presented a few more limited edition models standing proudly atop their Union Jack boxes. The round table became the winning area, featuring both our giveaway model Bertie and OOAK raffle model, a one of one glossy D'Abernon Tiger Woods (on the Friday). Everything was set to welcome visitors!
What I can only describe next is something that only can be summed up in one word "overwhelmed". I have visited BreyerFest and the Clarion hotel many times and seen how busy it was during the festivities. I obviously hadn't understood fully how busy it was for those selling at the Clarion hotel and how quick things can trot out of the door! Thursday afternoon came around and I popped out of my hotel room to stick up some posters in the hall ways, which is a Clarion tradition. Rooms stick up leaflets and posters of what they have for sale, where they are and how to find them. It was VERY cool to see that some rooms even had some Copperfox Founding Fox models for sale!! (Go Copperfox!!) I took some snaps of the posters in the halls (below). Can you spot the Copperfox ones?
I was wearing my Copperfox work shirt whilst putting up a poster and someone approached me and asked whether my room was open. "Yes, of course, i'll open it for you" I said. It was one person, what's the worse that could happen (in a good way of course!)? Everything i found out....! I got back to my room, opened it up, wedged a piece of foam under the door to keep it open and that was it. It didn't shut that evening until nearly every model was sold.
Can you believe that? Nearly all the models I bought with me were gone by Thursday evening, before the main festivities event started. Limited edition models trotted out in ones and twos, blank canvases went out in armfuls of four or six. Most of the time I couldn't see the door, only the sea of people and models popping up for air every now and then. It was good chaos. Chaos as in how concentrated the sales were and good in that they were Copperfox models!! I was so proud and pleased that people had come to our room and purchased a Copperfox model. A HUGE, MASSIVE, GIGANTIC, TITANTIC thank you for everyone who came and re-homed a model. It was wonderful to meet new Copperfox owners, to hear what you thought, listen to your suggestions and ideas for the future and to give feedback on the models. It did take me back a little when people asked for a photo or an autograph!! (i did look over my shoulder to see whether they meant someone else! Who, me?).
On Thursday evening when it went quieter in the hallways of the hotel, I shut the room door and galloped along (literally!!) to the Artisans Gallery which is held in the Clarion hotel on Thursday night. This event showcases many of the talents of the Model Horse Hobby including our own Donna Chaney of Animal Artistry and Morgen Kilbourn of One Horse Studios who sculpted the Copperfox Finnigan model (it was fabulous to meet you in person!). Here are a few snaps from the Artisans Gallery including works by Morgen Kilbourn, Candace Liddy, Caroline Boyston, Tabatha Pack, Donna Chaney and pictures from the Breyer table, which showcases upcoming models and future releases.
The Artisans Gallery also featured the entries in Breyers custom contest, in which entries had to feature a customised Breyer model. Each entry was fantastic and it was a bit of a challenge to work out the original Breyer model- for example, the Secretariat racehorse model was originally a Breyer Totilas model. Wow, what a transformation! There is so much artistic and creative talent in the Model Horse Hobby, it is simply outstanding!! :-)
On the way back from the Artisans Gallery I popped into the Stone room to say hello to Peter Stone, who unfortunately wasn't there (hello Peter if you are reading!!). There was a sea of Stone models of all shapes and sizes, including the new mould Spanish and Mustang horses and lovely Stone Chip models. Here are a couple of snaps from their room:
Thursday ended in the early hours of Friday morning, with my head spinning and wondering what the next day would bring?
Friday dawned and I needed a Plan B, as my stocks had been decimated (in a good way) and I was a little embarrassed that I didn't have any models to sell. This involved involved a very long phone call to the UK and to the warehouse to see if there was any possibility that we could get some more stock delivered. The ironic situation was that a new shipment arrived into the UK the day I left and it wasn't possible to bring anymore models with me when I left for Kentucky. Sadly Concorde wasn't around to deliver at supersonic speed, it would cost a small fortune for UPS to deliver at the weekend and plus Superman was busy that day so he couldn't help either (which was a shame!!).
I managed to hang onto one of each model as a display/sample so everyone could see our range. I had a dozen or so bodies left to sell on Friday evening, so Friday rolled around with a frantic planning session and backup scenarios- the main backup being that i could take orders at a special show only price. I can't say I expected our models to trot out as fast as they did and was still in shock at this stage (and going through a mild session of panic!). Friday required a rejiggle of the room and consolidating all stock into a presentable display (below!).
With no models to sell, I thought it would be good to see what people though of the future and so I hosted a poll on the wall of my hotel room- as you do. The question was asked as to what breed should join the Copperfox herd next? The options were a Highland Pony, Shire, Shetland Pony, Hunter/Cob, Gypsy Vanner (Irish Cob) and Welsh Section B Pony. Visitors were asked to cast their vote by tick. A huge thank you to everyone who ticked and submitted their vote. It was amazing to hear and see your feedback. It was very helpful in planning for the future!!
This poll was also featured online with an amazing response. A big thank you to everyone who voted via our social channels, gave their choice and submitted their idea. Thank you all! :)
Saturday trotted around and by this point there was nothing left other than my samples, which had been presold and reserved on Thursday (yes, you have the same expression on your face I did on Thursday, the Oh My Gosh face!), in addition to a handful of tee shirts and a single loan hoody. Saturday meant that we had a new raffle model which was a Glossy Caramac (pictured below), our 2016/2016 Live Show Donation model and by the end of the day she had a wonderful new owner (well done @cloverleafprops).
Saturday was a day full of conversations of the future, which is always one of my favourite conversations to have. Talking about future models, plans, ideas, suggestions, taking on feedback and comments, hearing what people think. I was overjoyed to hear the reception to our models. The comment of "are they custom models?" was one of the biggest compliments ever, in addition to being mistaken for Stone and Breyer models (which to clarify we are Copperfox Model Horses) which did make me smile. The term that we are the "British Breyer" was quite common and one I must add didn't coin nor utter directly. One of the biggest requests was a way to purchase Copperfox models through a USA source (we're working on it!), in addition to the want of Copperfox Drafter models (sure thing!). Nearly every person who came through the door of our room had seen our models in pictures which is very encouraging indeed. It means that we are reaching people and getting the word out, which is the most important thing.
Every request, comment and piece of feedback has been recorded and will be put into our planning process. Those who saw me at breakfast in the Clarion hotel on Saturday and Sunday morning would have seen me scribbling furiously into my notebook, writing like a mad woman, possessed!! I assure you i'm not mad (or not yet anyway!), only willing to get everything recorded before i forgot!!
On Saturday night I went shopping in the rooms of the Clarion- and can assure you it's like shopping in a sweet shop full to the brim off all your favourite treats! Rooms are full with model horses of all shapes, sizes and makes, from micro minis to scaled Marquette sculptures in all materials- plastic, resin, rubber, bronze, porcelain, china, everything and anything! There is so many horse shaped objects its very easy to have a case of model horse overload. Below are a few pictures from just a few of the rooms I visited.
I went shopping for some accessories for our Copperfox Model Horses and have to admit i did go on a bit of a spree (oops!). I bought handmade Western, Australian, Paso and Arabian Saddle and Bridle Sets, a Western Show Halter, a Pack Saddle and Panniers and some doll outfits. I can't wait to try them all out on Copperfox Models and take some pictures!! Some vintage Breyer Stablemates seemed to follow me home too (how did they sneak in?)
Whilst walking the halls I quite literally bumped into the team from Breyer too. It was great to see them again in person, to say hello and update them on the news of Copperfox Model Horses after the whirlwind of the past year. Alot can happen in a year!!
Sunday came around and I was model-less. All of my display models had been rehomed and all of the models I had brought with me were sold on Thursday and Friday. This meant that I only had hand luggage to go home with, which is quite a feat indeed! Sunday morning involved a frantic rejuggling of the hotel room, trying to remember where everything went (where did I put the microwave?) and straightening the room out, putting everything back in it's place. It took me a while to work out where I put the coffee machine. Doesn't everyone hide one in the fridge? (it was in the bathroom and then got homed in the fridge after I ran out of space).
The flight home was much simpler than the flight getting here. I arrived at Lexington airport, breezed through passport control, and sat for an hour or so engrossed in my book; so much so I had to buy another two at the airport!! I boarded a plane that was even smaller than the last, seating just 60 people, jetting off towards Detroit and the route home. At Detroit, I arrived and just had to walk to the next gate to catch the final plane home, which is quite something to get your head around. Flying internally in the USA is like boarding a bus, with no additional passport control or immigration, just a bit of a walk, hop, skip and a jump from plane to plane. It's wonderful!
One of my most memorable moments of my visit to Kentucky that makes me smile is someone walking into my room and asking me to "say banana?". Someone else even offered to pay me to keep talking which made me giggle!! In Britain they would pay be to be quiet!! I can never get over how my British accent sounds to other people; I too love listening to the different American accents so it's a win-win scenario all round!! With the banana situation, after saying banana we proceed to go through the whole shopping (grocery) list- banana, avocado, tomato, potato. Aluminum was a interesting one!! It was great fun and had us in huge smiles by the end!!
The best moment by far has to be selling out of models. I know it wasn't the most ideal situation as I know many people wanted to buy a Copperfox Model during the event but from my point of view, it's simply amazing. I don't think it's really sunk it what happened and i'm certain it will take a few days for it to catch up and the reality to hit.
I wanted also to say a heartfelt thank you to everyone who came to see us at the Clarion, to re-home models, to give feedback, submit their comments and suggestions or to simply say hello. It was wonderful to meet you all and I wanted to say that without your support we wouldn't be where we are today. You have made it all possible so a gigantic thank you. I will honestly wear those little two words out. Thank You.
After my whirlwind trip to Kentucky i'm back in Blightly with a head full to the brim of ideas, a massive to to-do list and much excitement for the future. Tomorrow is another day and who knows what that will bring. One thing for sure, it will involve Copperfox Model Horses!
Happy Collecting everyone :)
P.S: Want to know how the poll ended? These are the results from our room poll as of Sunday morning. I think there might have to be a Copperfox Gypsy Vanner (correct name Irish Cob just to be clear) model!!