MDRA Red Glare 2023

I survived vending at MDRA’s annual Red Glare launch event. JUST BARELY.

Friday was so windy as to be very marginal for flying and not that pleasant to hang out in. Expecting the weekend to be even worse, people did manage to get in flights, but many rockets were lost in distant trees. Saturday was canceled as heavy rain started overnight and continued well into the afternoon. Once the rain let up the weather did get beautiful for a couple hours… until the tornado warnings started coming in. Apparently one was seen right nearby, and Brian from CENJARS reported that one touched down at the end of his street back home in North Jersey. Sunday started off much like Friday but then the skies showed us what wind really means. Mid-morning the wind shifted and picked up enough to bend my tent, which was staked down, weighted down, and tied to my car, which was also serving a windbreak. Fortunately Jim from PARA and somebody else happened to be on-hand right then to keep the side bars from breaking until I could reposition the tie-down lines to my car. Hardly anybody flew anything until sometime in the afternoon, when the wind finally died down substantially and there was a sustained push to get all the rockets into the air.

Apparently attendance on Friday was the highest it’s been in some number of years. But between the Saturday cancellation and marginal conditions Sunday, weekend attendance was much much smaller than last year. Various clubs in the region scrambling to hold last minute TARC qualifying launches for their local high school teams before a deadline Monday didn’t help either. So business was quieter than expected. But as per usual for an MDRA launch I learned a lot hanging out with Ken from Performance Hobbies, saw a number of folks I know, put faces to names for a bunch of others, and met some new people.

Staying in a micro cabin within Maryland’s Tuckahoe State Park nearby was also very convenient and nice. They’re basically 10x10x10 wood cubes with a double bed, two narrow bunk beds, a very small shelf-slash-desk on the wall between the beds, and pretty much nothing else. They do have electricity though, which was a requirement so I could recharge my credit card terminal & phone. Mine at least got just enough daylight & airflow to not feel claustrophobic or dark and the campground loop I was in has good visual separation between everybody. So Saturday’s cancellation was a bummer, but ignoring that context I had a perfectly good day holed up in the micro cabin reading novels and listening to the storm.

Beyond all that, the trip was made worth it quickly after arriving Friday when somebody came running up because they were about to leave, were worried I wasn’t coming, and really wanted to buy some of my MicroMaxx kits for their daughter. Another highlight was chatting with a pair of pre-schoolers I know from CENJARS who were expounding at length on the virtues of various rockets. Well, the slightly older one was expounding. The toddler mostly chewed on an old rocket clutched in their fist, though very politely they did offer me a taste several times…

Let it also be known that even without a fully functional roof rack, though admittedly having added a hitch cargo shelf, I smashed previous personal bests by cramming a truly ridiculous array of stuff into and onto the Subaru. Sadly though it was way too windy to setup my grid wall panels and so on. I wound up very artfully propping things up as low to the ground as possible so they didn’t blow around excessively.

In any event, onward and upward! We’re finalizing plans for Alice and I to go to the MARS club’s NY Power launch at the end of May for our next national level event.

Come Fly With Us!

Rocketship Games has expanded to a legit launch vendor! Well, as “legit” as you can be operating out of the back of a small hatchback in the middle of a cornfield…

Fancy tent’s big debut! Photo by Andrea H.

The past ~18 months we’ve been low-key manufacturing & selling kits of our own designs. Very niche micro-rockets, but there’s hundreds of them out there in the wild now, across all points of the continental US + Hawaii.

Earlier this year we wanted to start carrying Estes motors in addition to Quest’s MicroMaxx motors, to complement some new larger kits we’re (slowly) working toward. Then we figured it’d be really useful to have full lines of motors available for sale to everyone at our section launches. Beyond the convenience, shipping some of the higher thrust motors incurs hazardous materials fees that clobber the efficiency of small personal orders but a vendor can amortize over a larger purchase. And at that point we may as well go all-in, right? Obviously. So we also started stocking a solid mix of other kits along with basic construction tools and supplies. Of course then we needed a fancy tent to put it all under, and here we are!

But, seriously, one of my big goals in this effort was to create just a little bit of a hobby shop experience for the kids that attend our section launches. Realistically my daughter will not have the extremely formative experience I was fortunate to have growing up of walking to the neighborhood hole-in-the-wall hobby shop on weekends and just drinking in all of the kits, tools, supplies, and built models on display. I don’t know that there are any such shops left in our city, let alone in walking distance. She’ll have different and in many ways better experiences—between Internet forums, online shopping, and rapid shipping, let alone technical advances, this is a golden age for hobbies of all kinds. But there is something special about having it all tangibly there in front of you. So this project’s already paid off in watching the 8, 10, 12 year olds and so on at our launches agonizing about what to spend their allowance on, or doing the little kid dance of checking everything out, going away for a bit, coming back to stare some more hoping someone starts just handing you gifts, maybe doing that cycle once or twice more, and then deciding on a course of action and bringing over mom or dad to show them all the cool stuff & begin internal negotiations…

Alice deliberating on our table arrangement. Photo by Ken D.

That’s our big news this month. Recently we also concluded dramatically increasing the workshop & storage space in our basement factory warehouse and are looking forward to getting back to new kits & other projects. Come on over and say hello if you see us at a launch. We are at PARA 520 in southeastern Pennsylvania essentially every month, and are hoping to make it to MDRA and other clubs in the mid-Atlantic and northeast regions more frequently in 2023, now as a vendor in addition to flyers.

We’ll see you out there!

Open for business! Photo by Ken D.

Hats off to Al & his Allied Hobbies in the Roosevelt Mall, which I’ll never forget…‚Äč