History of High Plains Modelers

The year 2011 marks the 25th anniversary of the club. I happen to be the president and I felt something should be written to mark the occasion. Hence I decided to recap some of the history of our club and to highlight some achievements.

Once upon a sprue…

…back in 1986 a group of brave modelers from Northern Colorado decided to get together and establish a modeling club. It is said that among them were Larry Hersh, Lester Marcinkowski, maybe even Paul Boyer (former editor of FineScale Modeler Magazine). I’m sure there were others too; I just have not been able to find a roster of the founding members to prove or disprove who were among the original members of the club.

The club held its first model contest back in 1987 at the Foothills Mall in Fort Collins. Exactly 101 models were entered, not a bad start for such a young club. Following years witnessed similar events with a steady increase on participation, achieving 250+ models in 1991.

The same year, perhaps inspired by the success of the largest contest so far, the club started a newsletter (championed by Lester) and also chartered itself with the IPMS, (International Plastic Modelers Society).

The newsletter regularly included announcements and minutes from past meetings. The publication quickly became Lester’s venue to publish articles on his favorite subject: the Polish Military. Based on the letters to the editor it is clear that everyone gave him a ‘hard time’ for all the Polish articles. His way to get back at everyone was to create a full newsletter devoted to the history of Polish Military!

 When Thompson’s Hobbies (in Loveland) closed down, the club bought a display case and Hobby Town graciously offered to keep it in their store to display the latest builds from the club. This was intended as a recruiting tool to attract new members. The case was on display at Hobby Town starting in late 1991, but over the years the display case became stale with just the same models on display. I’m not sure how long the display case was there or what happened to it.

A very interesting feature of the newsletter was the “Face to Face” interview of club members. Back in 1991, a club member named “Larry” said that his stash was about 300 models. Only he knows how many models he has hoarded in the following 20 years but some people said that his collection is better stocked that most hobby shops! Another club member named “Gary” said that he returned to modeling when he was 32-year old and has been “at it ever since.” Well, he is turning 70 years old in 2011 and he is “still at it.”

The club has always been part of the Northern Colorado community and in August 1992 it supported the release of the 1992 WWII Commemorative Stamps by having a model display at the Loveland Post Office.

The club was growing fast and with clear goals and ambition. In 1993, just two years after becoming an IPMS Chapter, it hosted the Region X Convention. The two-day event was held at the Foothills Mall and brought in 426 models. Some of the modelers present in that contest were the well-known Mark Persichetti, Ron Johnson and even Derek Brown, a multiple-time winner of the IPMS National Convention.

On a different note, in early 1994 there were at least two junior members in the club, as it is reflected in the newsletter. There are references to a 6-year old girl showing and telling everyone about her 1/72 P-51D Mustang. There was also boy who couldn’t understand why most grown-up modelers seem to take an eternity to finish a model, as he was able to “buy, build, finish the helicopter and take a shower” all in the same afternoon.

Even when the club has been mainly about plastic modeling, in the mid-1990s the club members took an interest in railroading, at least when it came down to elections. It even reached the point of having one candidate publishing an ad supporting the campaign of his adversary!

In 1995 there was a group build that included several B-17s with some escorting P-47s, and attacking Fw-190. All of them were built ‘wheels up’ and hung from the ceiling at Hobby Town. A few of those models were still hanging from the ceiling in late 2009.

For several years during the 1990s the High Plains Modeler club had two groups, one in the Fort Collins/Loveland area and another one in the Greeley area. There was a good overlap of members between both locations and both groups were actively hosting displays and shows. In the late 1990s the Greeley-based meeting was discontinued.

During the period 2000 to 2004 the club newsletter migrated to an electronic version and a website, which unfortunately went stale and it is not active anymore. Some printouts may exist, but not many that I could find. Along the way, the club kept going strong and in 2005 hosted the Region X Convention for a second time.

The Convention was a success as these statistics show: a total of 585 models were entered, with 92 senior modelers, 8 juniors and 5 youth. Also that year the club won the “Region X Chapter of the Year” award.

As would be expected, the meeting locations have changed over time. The last two decades have witnessed meetings at Hobby Town (Fort Collins) or Don’s Hobbies (Greeley). There were short stints at Godfather’s Pizza and the Fort Collins Library. The Group Realty and U.S. Bank provided meeting rooms at various times. The 4-H Building at the Larimer County Fairgrounds (“The Ranch”) became our current meeting place. 

In more recent history, in 2010 the club incorporated as a non-for-profit organization with the State of Colorado and at the end of the year, the newsletter and website got a ‘make over’ and both are growing strong.

So, what has the club accomplished in its first 25 years?

We hosted the Region X twice and held 19 local contests, with another one being planned for 2011.

We won “Region X Chapter of the Year” award in 2005.

Several of our members have judged at IPMS National Conventions and a few of our members have won awards at national conventions.

Despite some railroaded elections, the club has had a total of 14 different presidents during the 21 years that elections were held. Rumor has it that once there was a coup, but it was just a vice-president taking over from a resigning president.

At least two club members got published in FineScale Modeler Magazine and the IPMS Journal. One of the club members is an active member of the IPMS Reviewers Corps, too.

I think all this is no small feat considering that club membership has historically been around 15 to 20 people.

Perhaps the most important achievement is that in the last 25 years we didn’t just stick plastic parts together. We have stuck together, forged decades-long friendships, and sustained a living club.

Pablo Bauleo
High Plains Modeler
President (2011)