J. R. Pope of Richmond has been building models for 50 years. As he recalls, the first kit he ever built was an airplane that his father bought him. “We sat in the kitchen and he showed me how to cut things off the tree and how to use the glue.”
From there, Pope evolved his skills to where now, “I’m probably better than I was twenty years ago.” Not only is modeling fun for Pope, it’s a release. “Some people think it’s tedious,” he says. “To me, it’s a pressure release to just sit in the shop and work on these.”
Pope and his fellow lobbyists gathered last Saturday at the Roanoke Civic Center’s Exhibit Hall for this year’s “Virginia Shootout Scale Model Show and Contest.” Presented by the Roanoke chapter of the International Plastic Modelers Society, the contest covers a wide range of categories: aircraft, military vehicles, ships, automotive, space and science fiction, figures, dioramas, and miscellaneous subjects.
The purpose of the Shootout, explains Roanoke IPMS chapter President Dennis Smith, is “to promote model building through historical renderings” and “accurate depictions of actual vehicles, whether they be in World War I, World War II, civilian [or] commercial. We have figures [from] science fiction to factual figures.” While most of the entrants are adults, there are kids competing in the contest. “We have a ‘Make and Take’ program where kids can come in and build models for free,” says Smith. “We’re trying to promote it and get more kids interested [to] give them something other than electronics.”
This year’s Shootout far surpassed last year’s contest. Smith says, “We’ve actually sold more tables this year than we have the last several years, and the models on the tables are excellent quality and (there are) more entries.”
Mike Carroll, a hobbyist from Lynchburg, was one of several vendors at the Shootout selling model kits. The kits he and fellow hobbyists sell come from the collections that they’re “thinning out” as he puts it. Other vendors offer a range of news kits. “Some of us probably make some money, and others are probably breaking even,” says Carroll.
A model builder himself, Carroll had two models entered in the Shootout and focuses his model building primarily on military subjects such as armor and tanks. Another vendor, Chuck Connors, who makes his living primarily as a high school science teacher, was selling his “stash” of model kits from his basement. “I take the money I make from here and kind of spend it on other hobby items – it’s kind of like recycling.”
Joe Marranca, a judge at the Shootout, explained that models are evaluated according to IPMS rules. “Essentially, we’re looking at finish and then the overall presentation of the model, how well the model is put together, the alignment of the model, whether or not there are glue marks left on it, how well the paint is put down, whether or not there are any blemishes in the paint – any sort of mistakes.”
Asked what advice he’d give to anyone interested in taking up model building, J. R. Pope “wholeheartedly” suggests they just do it—whatever their age. “It’s a good hobby to get into, it makes you creative. It [can be] frustrating but it’s also something that you can do in the winter time when the snow’s blowing down the street. You can just go off into a corner and build.”