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Old Mar 13, 2002, 10:07 AM   #1
HMVNipper
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Default My Experience at NY Beatlefest

I've been debating whether to post this...but I feel I must say something, and to say it here is quite possibly a very good place to do it. I think people should be aware of this, and I thank Sandra (SF4-EVER) for suggesting I tell you guys about it. I sent the note below to select friends regarding my experience as a guest at this past weekend's NY Metro Beatlefest. For those who don't know, I was supposed to be moderating two panels about Fan Fiction, plus setting up a table as a guest to promote my books.

The fest was AWFUL, and I am so angry at Mark Lapidos I could SPIT...but I feel people should know about this, because he's got one heck of a scam going on...and frankly, it's making me think twice about having anything to do with Beatlefest anymore. I'm still planning to go to Chicago this year, but only if I can manage to get Mark to understand how disrespected I felt...I intend to send him a letter outlining everything, but I do not expect him to do anything about it -- he will probably just tell me not to bother showing up as a guest in August...which might not be such a loss, all things considered.

Anyway, here's what happened to me as a guest at Beatlefest this weekend, judge it however you will...

*****************

NY Beatlefest s***ed. Well, okay, not totally. Mostly. A good portion of it, anyway. We did connect with some really nice people, and that was worth it, but the rest...I can live without it.

Lisha (a friend who came to town specifically for the fest) and I arrived on Friday to discover that (a) no one knew anything about us having a table of any kind (which we didn't need Friday night, but would need the rest of the weekend, and which I had confirmed with Mark about a week and a half before) and (b) no one gave a damn. We discovered that the other guest authors, Bruce Spizer, Larry Lange (the guy with the self-help book, for those of you who remember him from last year in Chicago) and Sharon Richards (more about her later, she wrote a poetry/fic book called "Drop Forged Lennon," and she's a really nice person) had tables in the dealer room. Dr. Bruce Lev, the author of the new Billy Shears novel that some of you may know about, was also somewhere in the conveniently forgotten wastelands, as he didn't have a table either, and apparently Mark had promised him one too. I managed to track down Jim, Mark's right-hand man, and he said something would be done for us by Saturday morning.

In the process of trying to get a table and wondering why some of the authors were in the Dealer Room, I also found out that Mark was CHARGING the guest authors who had tables in the dealer room FOUR HUNDRED DOLLARS PER TABLE...and they were fool enough to pay it!! If Larry Lange and Bruce Lev (who ended up paying Larry Lange for half of his table and sharing it) and Sharon Richards made that money back over the weeekend, I'll eat my hat...I sure know I didn't...and in retrospect I almost think that "forgetting" us was Mark's way of subtly hinting that we weren't gonna get something for nothing...but I will be d***ed if I will pay him $400 for a table, so he can stick it where the sun don't shine as far as I am concerned...he promised me a table, and I reconfirmed it with him less than a week before the convention, and he never said anything about paying him...nor should he force his GUESTS to do so as far as I am concerned.

The guest author intros went well on Friday night, though Martin Lewis was the emcee and seemed to be completely clueless regarding the smaller name people such as Dr. Lev, Sharon and myself...but okay, he handled it well, he was fairly charming, and the whole thing was all right. We called it a night after that and went home. (I should say here that I live close enough not to stay in the hotel, so we went back to my place each night. Not that I'd stay willingly in that hotel, it's disgusting!)

On Saturday morning we arrived bearing three boxes of books and equipment and were greeted by Mark, who offered us a really tiny table in the area outside the ballroom (on the wrong side of the hall, where we were last year, and where no one noticed us, and also where the noise level would have been beyond intolerable) or told us we could sit in the hallway leading to the dealer room, but that if we chose that table (in a quieter area, ambient noise-wise) we'd have to vacate when Neil Innes came to sign autographs...we figured that was better, though, as we didn't want to be screaming over the noise in the lobby (particularly since I have absolutely NO voice and have been struggling to talk for a couple of weeks now), and we'd use the time when Neil was at the table to go wander, take a bathroom break, go eat, stuff like that. On Saturday that was a reasonably good place to be -- it was drafty, though, but not unbearable...the day was warm, and we wore sweaters and were pretty much okay. Traffic was light, though. The other two people in the area were Alistair Taylor and Billy J. Kramer (who is really nice, and whose wife is really nice too), but of course THEY got the long lines and when people were waiting for them hardly anyone looked at us. We sold a few books -- more than last year in NY, but definitely not as many as we sold in Chicago last summer. The table was absolutely NOT in an ideal place...it became more apparent as time went on that we were being stuck in this area just to get us to shut up and quit complaining.

Our panels were a semi-disaster. The time slots we were given were lousy, as if they were afterthoughts, though I called Mark SEVERAL times and begged him not to give me late-night or evening panels because I needed to get home to my small child, and he had assured me he would not do that to me. So much for Mark's promises. The lack of organization was insane. There were no emcees in the small room, no one to keep track of time, no one to make sure stuff happened or didn't, and the 9:30 PM time slot we were relegated to on Saturday STUNK. We went on right after the big name guests, so the room, which had been packed with people for Klaus, Alistair, Billy and Neil, cleared out to fewer than ten people. Not to mention that we went on nearly 20-25 minutes late because the guys before us went on late because they were waiting for a panel moderator that never showed up and didn't take the initiative to go on without someone until it dawned on them that no one was coming...We were the second to last thing in the room (before Bob Abdou, the puppet guy -- who, btw, is really very nice and was probably just stressing when we saw him in Chicago last year -- after what happened this time, I know what he was feeling!) and were on just as the band went on in the big ballroom, and no one cared. We got a couple of good questions -- one guy asked about Beatles crossover fic, and that was fairly intelligent, anyway -- but by and large we stared at them and they stared at us. We left afterwards and went home for the night.

Sunday started out even more inauspiciously. It was FREEZING -- a cold front went through and the temperature dropped about 30 degrees and it was incredibly windy. The place where we were sitting had turned into a wind tunnel. They seemed to have the A/C going -- and though we AND Billy AND his wife all complained REPEATEDLY about how cold and windy it was, the hotel staff didn't do much to help us. If it was bad for us, it had to be worse for Billy, who had to perform that night -- the man should NOT have been sitting in such a horrid place. They futzed with the thermostat, nothing happened, and they left until we complained again. It was AWFUL. Then Mark went by and told us that no, the wind was not becaue of the A/C vents, it was because of the open door from the dealer room down the hall, which was not airtight and which left drafts to fly down the hallway. Lovely. And Mark put people in this area KNOWING that it would be drafty and cold and awful...I realize that the hotel in NJ s***s, but this was incredble.

We had brought Krispy Kreme donuts for everyone who was helping, two dozen. (It's a bit of an in-joke that started last year in Chicago -- we were keeping up a tradition.) We had them out on our table as we were setting up, still in a bag and not open...and the "donut police" (a hotel staffer) came by and told us "you have to put those donuts away, you can't have unauthorized food in a public area of the hotel, that's why we have concessions." (Yeah, concessions with lousy food that was WAY overpriced...the food in the NJ hotel stinks -- when I compare it to that lovely buffet in Chicago I just cringe.) Fine, we put them under the table and were giving them away by stealth all day...but it was just another example of the crap that happens in the New Jersey venue. The hotel is ENTIRELY too small...on Saturday afternoon the dealer room was so overcrowded it was dangerous, there aren't enough conference rooms for everything to happen, and it's filthy too -- and the hotel staff are rude and nasty and just plain obnoxious. I knew I hated the NJ Beatlefest in the past, but now I know exactly why, and I have no intention of going back there, either as an attendee OR a participant.

Anyway...we sat there for most of the morning, and it was VERY slow...we sold maybe two books, sat there wearing our coats, cranky and freezing and out of sorts. At one point we got a little hungry, so I got up to go get some food for everyone, and as I got back, I found everyone at our table frantically shoving things under the rear table and a HUGE crowd of people following Neil Innes (who I almost tripped over) for his signing, which no one had bothered to inform us about. Neil, thank God, is a VERY nice person -- I apologized profusely and he said that was okay, did we need space and all that kind of thing, but I told him no, we'd clear out, but it was nice of him to offer. I can tell you that we were more than a little nonplussed by the fact that no one told us what was happening -- if Lisha hadn't been on her way down the hall and saw them coming, we never would've known at all...anyway, we killed about two hours (because right after Neil, Alistair Taylor started a signing session) and then decided not to even bother setting up again...it was about 3:00 by that time, and we'd been sitting there freezing and getting sick (I still have a stiff neck from sitting in that draft!) and it was fruitless, no one bought anything...so Lisha and I took the stuff out to the car and then spent the rest of the time before our panel shmoozing around the dealer room. Our panel was at 6:15, again after the big name guys, and again the room cleared out after them. Two people other than folks we knew stuck around, and one of them left halfway through. The interesting thing was that the panel itself was GREAT -- Sharon Richards and Bruce Lev were on it too, and the discussion was lively and interesting and a ton of fun. I think people would have LOVED it, if only they'd seen it...sigh...I know I don't have the name recognition or the pull that the "name" guests have, but I do believe that if Mark had not shunted us aside as an afterthought, we might have had a slightly better turnout. We did get a good number of people to come hear us in Chicago last year, after all...

A few good things -- we did meet a lot of great people. Sharon Richards is lovely, Bruce Lev is very nice, and we "bonded" with a lot of terrific fans. But the discontent is growing -- Lisha and I became friendly with a few dealers, and they all said that they hate this, that Mark is killing his golden goose...I think it's only a matter of time until this whole thing blows up in his face, frankly, and as Lisha said, Beatlefest is no longer about the Beatles, it's about selling memorabilia, singing in the hallways, and meeting friends, but that is about it. I mean, they only showed ONE BEATLES MOVIE all weekend, AHDN on Saturday afternoon. The rest of the ballroom time was taken up with discussions or contests or other baloney...and they didn't even show the movies in the VIDEO room, for crysake...and I ask you, isn't half the fun SEEING the Beatles on the movie screen with a bunch of other fans?

Frankly, Beatlefest in general has gotten too big for its own good, and the NY one in particular has gone downhill every year since the first time I attended in 1977. The NJ venue stinks, the hotel is awful, filthy and way too small, and the staff is surly, and all I can say is that I was glad we weren't STAYING there, we got to go home to a quiet apartment and be civilized! Nope, not going to this Beatlefest anymore on pain of death...

Anyway...that's pretty much the report from the trenches...I hold out hope that Chicago will be MUCH better, because it usually is, but you can bet your bottom dollar I am gonna send Mark a letter telling him just how disrespected I felt, thank you very much. Because if this garbage of not remembering to give us a table as promised and late-night panels happens again in Chicago, Mark can stuff it.

***********

I know this sounds like a gripefest, and perhaps it is...but I am really angry, and also more than a little hurt. I put my heart and soul into what I do, and to have Mark basically disrespect and disregard it like it's garbage REALLY stung...

Anyway, interested in anyone's thoughts...
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Old Mar 13, 2002, 10:32 AM   #2
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Default Re: My Experience at NY Beatlefest

Whoa, it took me time to read it all! More than a Beatlefest, it seemed a kind of Italian fair, where if you don't pay, and don't pay good, you will end with your desk next to the cows seller (wich an obvious diminuition of possible buyers)... I am so sorry to hear that... I got this question, who exactly organize a Beatlefest? Anyone related to Apple?

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Old Mar 13, 2002, 11:56 AM   #3
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Default Re: My Experience at NY Beatlefest

Amalthea, Beatlefest is run and organized by a man named Mark Lapidos, out of Westwood, NJ. He has a virtual monopoly on Beatles conventions in the States -- there are sometimes smaller gatherings run by other people, but no one from Apple runs them...though they do check up on the folks who DO run conventions to make sure no unlicensed dealers and such are there...which is why the Beatlefest dealer room is pretty awful these days.

From what I understand, Mark is the only person who is allowed to use the word "Beatles" in promoting his conventions -- apparently he has copyrighted or trademarked (or something like that) the name "Beatlefest." So, essentially that means that if you are holding a non-Mark Lapidos convention, you can call it a "Mersey Moptop Convention" or a "Fab Four Fest" or a "Liverpool Lads Gathering," but you can't call it a BEATLE anything...

Anyway...hope that answers your question...and btw, yes, I definitely felt like he stuck me next to the cow seller, as you put it!!!

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[This Message Has Been Edited By HMVNipper On March 13, 2002 11:57 AM]
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Old Mar 13, 2002, 05:49 PM   #4
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Default Re: My Experience at NY Beatlefest

You are not kidding, Rell...a LOT of people have grievances and axes to grind! You should've heard some of the dealers we talked to!

I doubt I'll get a response to my letter when I send it, or if I do it'll be one to tell me to p**s off...but I am really upset and don't want to let it lie...I will keep everyone posted...



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Old Mar 13, 2002, 07:13 PM   #5
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Default Re: My Experience at NY Beatlefest

I'm also sorry you didn't have a good time. You seemed to be in good spirits , though, at least when I saw you.

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Old Mar 14, 2002, 12:42 AM   #6
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Default Re: My Experience at NY Beatlefest

I'm so sorry to hear that your experience was so awful. There's just no excuse for treating "guests" in such a fashion. Please let us know if you get any response (but you're right, you probably won't) if you send a letter to Mark about your grievances. Y'know, I'm running across a lot more people who have an axe to grind about Beatlefest these days than people who enjoy it. You hit it right on the head - it's more about socializing than about the Beatles these days and luckily, I still enjoy that aspect of it, but I think if I would have had YOUR weekend, I might feel differently. I hope you'll have a much better experience in Chicago!

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Old Mar 14, 2002, 01:15 PM   #7
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Default Re: My Experience at NY Beatlefest

Susan,

I am sorry you went through this and you have good grounds for your feelings. It took a lot of courage to post this. I think you did the right thing.

Thank you for making us aware of this.

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Old Mar 14, 2002, 02:22 PM   #8
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Default Re: My Experience at NY Beatlefest

Further reasons why U don't bother with beatlesfest anymore....

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Old Mar 14, 2002, 06:04 PM   #9
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Default Re: My Experience at NY Beatlefest

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Tahoma, Arial, Sans-Serif">Quote:</font><HR>Originally Posted By beatlebangs1964:
I am sorry you went through this and you have good grounds for your feelings. It took a lot of courage to post this. I think you did the right thing.

Thank you for making us aware of this.

<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
My thoughts exactly


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Old Mar 15, 2002, 06:34 AM   #10
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Default Re: My Experience at NY Beatlefest

I think part of the problem is they really don't have any competition. Beatlefest is basically the only Beatle convention in town.

I'm with a Star Trek group that puts on a convention once a year. It's very expensive to put on a con - the celebrity guests' fees and airfare, renting the hotel space, licensing & entertainment fees, etc. It takes about a year to plan and about 20 dedicated people to chair the committees and countless volunteers to make it run smoothly. It's a lot of work. But we make it happen every year and this is our 24th anniversay.

What we need is a group of Beatle fans (at least 15)who are crazy enough & organized enough to start a rival Beatles convention. It can be done, but it won't be easy.


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Old Mar 15, 2002, 08:25 AM   #11
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Default Re: My Experience at NY Beatlefest

Ohhh. Sorry to hear about your weekend. Mark seems to have really shot himself in the foot over this.


Off topic, I've chatted to Dr. Lev too through emailing. He congratulated me on my site and hoped he could meet me soon.

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Old Mar 15, 2002, 08:58 AM   #12
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Default Re: My Experience at NY Beatlefest

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Tahoma, Arial, Sans-Serif">Quote:</font><HR>Originally Posted By HMVNipper:

I doubt I'll get a response to my letter when I send it, or if I do it'll be one to tell me to p**s off...but I am really upset and don't want to let it lie...
<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

You SHOULD voice your grievances. Otherwise, he'll just keep steamrolling over everyone. Try to keep it pretty factual though - the more emotional and p*ssed off you sound, the less he's likely to listen to you. Not fair, but usually true.

Do keep us informed. Good luck.



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Old Mar 15, 2002, 11:13 AM   #13
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Default Re: My Experience at NY Beatlefest

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Tahoma, Arial, Sans-Serif">Quote:</font><HR>Originally Posted By C-Moon:
I think part of the problem is they really don't have any competition. Beatlefest is basically the only Beatle convention in town.

What we need is a group of Beatle fans (at least 15)who are crazy enough & organized enough to start a rival Beatles convention. It can be done, but it won't be easy.


<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

I'm crazy enough, C-Moon, it's crossed my mind more than once. Problem is that there's a certain amount of overhead involved and so it also has to be 15 or so Beatle fans who have a little money...sometimes hard to come by. But believe me, I've thought of it...

That said, did you see the topic in What Goes On about the convention happening in Cleveland the beginning of August and the possibility of one in LA in December? Hmmm...could it be the seeds of discontent are bearing fruit already?

I've got a little bit of follow-up, I spoke to Mark on the phone, but I will detail that in another post later.


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Old Mar 15, 2002, 01:04 PM   #14
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Default Re: My Experience at NY Beatlefest

Susan,

I am glad you did not let this go unchallenged. I hope things work out and I hope Mark answers for this.

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Old Mar 16, 2002, 01:26 PM   #15
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Default Re: My Experience at NY Beatlefest

Susan, I'm so sorry you had to be put through such an ordeal. I wouldn't wish something like that to my worst enemy. Mark seems to have created a monster that he can't control anymore. As for a monopoly, he certainly has had the market cornered for too long. Hopefully, the upcoming events in Cleveland and LA have good turn-outs and show Mark that two can play this game.

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Old Mar 16, 2002, 03:06 PM   #16
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Default Re: My Experience at NY Beatlefest

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Tahoma, Arial, Sans-Serif">Quote:</font><HR>Originally Posted By HMVNipper:

The fest was AWFUL...
<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

I don't know too much about Beatlefest but I am sorry that you had such a bad experience.



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Old Mar 16, 2002, 03:41 PM   #17
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Default Re: My Experience at NY Beatlefest

Susan,

You aren't the first to complain! I've heard this over & over during the years. It's so sad!

I used to love Fest & always used to go. I stopped for about 12 years & only went to Chicago Fest last year because I wanted to see my friends & to see Klaus.

The truth of it is that I knew Mark was scamming people & he's just living off the Beatles (in my humble opinion). I think the way he treats most of his guests (obviously not the BIG names) is just awful!

I've been thinking about going to Fest one more time, mainly again, to see friends. I'm not really so interested in Fest itself any more. I can't believe how much worse it's gotten in the last 12 years.

I'm tempted to go & just hang out outside the official rooms & not even pay to go in. I just want to hang with Beatles fans & see my friends.

Wouldn't that be funny if we all started going to the hotels, hanging out, but not going in & not paying. Hmmmmm!

FT

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Old Mar 16, 2002, 05:10 PM   #18
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Default Re: My Experience at NY Beatlefest

FT,

I like your suggestion. Hanging out with friends and enjoying the company of folks fluent in Beatle Speak is where a good portion of the fun lies. I have wished all along there was a Beatles' convention of some sort in the River City because I miss that. Thank goodness for these boards.

I like what Susan said about 'fests in other cities. Mark Lapidos has sadly cornered the market and like Frankenstein, the "monster" he has created may ultimately consume him. I have not been to a 'fest in over a decade and the way the high profile guests were treated IS appalling.

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Old Mar 16, 2002, 08:13 PM   #19
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Susan, hi, I stopped by the table Sat and couldn't afford to buy anything!!! The prices of the room and even the fact that we brought a cooler for food as the hotel food is DISGUSTING didn't help much! You are lucky you didn't stay because we were awakened at 3:30 by the fire alarm and had to evacuate the building! We were leaving Sunday am anyway so at 4:30 we took off. It is pretty sad and yes, We did notice the dealer room was extremely poor! There used to be such a variety of items, and affordable as well. I do enjoy the bands and seeing so many people that have so much in common. I'd love to see something else happen though!! We were also at the Sat night "discussion" (not from the beginning) but were too exhausted at that point to ask any intellegent questions. It was a terrible time slot. I think something can be done without the big guys!!! Who needs Martin Lewis, I'm sorry, but he is the MOST obnoxious person.....I went to Beatlefest in the 70's, NY and Chicago and stopped for many years. I've been back only to NJ for the past 5 years. It has gone downhill, way too crowded to appreciate things, don't know why I still go....I guess because it's all there is. When there is no choice.... Nice to have met you anyway....

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Old Mar 16, 2002, 08:14 PM   #20
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Default Re: My Experience at NY Beatlefest

Susan, hi, I stopped by the table Sat and couldn't afford to buy anything!!! The prices of the room and even the fact that we brought a cooler for food as the hotel food is DISGUSTING didn't help much! You are lucky you didn't stay because we were awakened at 3:30 by the fire alarm and had to evacuate the building! We were leaving Sunday am anyway so at 4:30 we took off. It is pretty sad and yes, We did notice the dealer room was extremely poor! There used to be such a variety of items, and affordable as well. I do enjoy the bands and seeing so many people that have so much in common. I'd love to see something else happen though!! We were also at the Sat night "discussion" (not from the beginning) but were too exhausted at that point to ask any intellegent questions. It was a terrible time slot. I think something can be done without the big guys!!! Who needs Martin Lewis, I'm sorry, but he is the MOST obnoxious person.....I went to Beatlefest in the 70's, NY and Chicago and stopped for many years. I've been back only to NJ for the past 5 years. It has gone downhill, way too crowded to appreciate things, don't know why I still go....I guess because it's all there is. When there is no choice.... Nice to have met you anyway....

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