By Jesse Robitaille
For the third time in less than a decade, the annual convention of The Royal Philatelic Society of Canada (RPSC) was held in Québec, where attendees – although sparse – were treated to a “uniquely Québec event.”
Recently held in Dorval in 2011 as well as Québec city in 2008, the RPSC Convention returned to “la belle province” for its 89th edition this May 26-28; however, this year’s three-day show, held at Hôtel Mortagne in Boucherville, saw a “disappointing turnout” according to outgoing RPSC President George Pepall.
“We certainly ate well throughout the weekend,” he said, recalling the three-course wine and cheese function as well as the awards banquet. “It was fun, and a uniquely Québec event.”
Pepall added the hotel was a “perfect venue” for a philatelic convention.
“There are marvellous facilities all in one structure, both for the ongoing events throughout the weekend and the display itself with the dealers surrounding the hall, but attendance wasn’t what we’d like it to be,” he said.
“We didn’t have the foot traffic that we would’ve wanted and might’ve expected in a bigger community, but you have huge support there from the local politicians, especially the mayor, Jean Martel.”
Pepall also commended the “high degree of bilingualism” displayed at this year’s convention.
“We anglophones made an effort,” he said, adding both he and incoming President Jim Taylor, of Calgary, Alta., made speeches in French.
“Fortunately, people appreciate the effort, and although our French is fractured and mangled somewhat, nobody really minds. It seems to show regard or respect for the French language and for the Francophone community in Canada.”
Apprentice judge Robert Pinet, who was completing his third apprenticeship session at the convention in Boucherville, agreed attendance was “low” throughout the weekend.
“In terms of the turnout, I’m not sure why it was so low,” he said, adding organizers “could have maybe done more to advertise it.”
“That, I think, they will have to look at.”
Despite the show’s low attendance, Pinet said it wasn’t for lack of trying.
“As an apprentice judge, you’re not given any kind of honorarium – and I wasn’t – but I was entitled to free meals. Judges were given a choice of honorarium or free food and board,” he said. “The room set aside for deliberation was really nice. The banquet was well done. From the point of view of being a judge and the way I was treated at the Royal, it was really quite well done.”
“I think Royals are always fun,” said Charles Verge, who’s a Fellow of The RPSC. “They’re all different because you’re in a different community all the time, and they have different approaches and different social events.”
Verge said dealer turnout – as with general attendance – varies year to year, but there’s a “hardcore group of dealers who go to every Royal,” he added.
“They’re very supportive of the society, which I think is important, but it’s also a factor of the venue and how much space you have. There were Royals with 400 frames of exhibits and 40 dealers, but they had the venue to do that. When you have a room the size of the one in Boucherville, there’s a limit to how many frames of exhibits you can put in and how many dealers you can have,” said Verge, who added he’s “always impressed and surprised by the organizing committees who take on putting a show like this on.”
Pepall, who was president of The RPSC for eight years, said every Royal is unique.
“There’s a sameness about them, one to another, but there are unique features as well. Sometimes it’s the quality of the exhibition, or sometimes it’s the volume and variety of dealers, including some international ones, which is increasingly a problem,” he said, adding international travel is “a hassle” for most dealers.
“That concerns us because they really bring a lot of new material with them as well as new approaches that are helpful to our collectors and our exhibitors.”
Pepall said his first step as past president is to produce a timeline for Taylor, the society’s new president, so there are no “unexpected surprises” during the transition in leadership.
“He’ll know at least a little bit in advance when to expect certain things, and that starts with the deadlines for the six issues per year of The Canadian Philatelist, but also the membership renewal towards the end of the year,” said Pepall.
“Then it’s preparation for future conventions, for which there have to be reports requested from directors and agendas drawn up for the three meetings that take place during the convention. All of that needs some preparation, and a new president doesn’t need the problem of being surprised.”
See the next issue of CSN for a review of The RPSC’s annual general meeting.
For more information, visit rpsc.org.