As I write this, there are only 12 days left until NEAF 2011 (the Northeast Astronomy Forum). As you can expect, people are beginning to get really excited about what is arguably the largest amateur astronomy expo in the world. (NEAF 2011 will be held on April 16th and 17th at Rockland Community College in Suffern, NY.) Recently, it occurred to me that it would be fun to try and find the person who has attended the most NEAF events and do a short interview. So, I submitted a post to the NEAF forum on Cloudy Nights and asked who had been to the most NEAFs. The winner of this informal survey was George Normandin who has attended "at least 10 times". Congratulations George! Our email interview is included below:
Are you located near Rockland Community College in Suffern, NY (the venue for NEAF) or are you traveling a long ways to attend?
I drive, but it's a 3 hour trip one way over mountain roads, plus a stop for breakfast and supper. I amuse myself by cataloging the observed road-kill (2 foxes, 1 bear, 2 skunks, 5 deer, 10 woodchucks, etc). This year I plan on staying over Saturday night to make a two-day event of it. I've done that twice in the past, and it's the best way to do NEAF.
Will you participate in all the NEAF activities (e.g., exhibit hall, speakers, solar star party, etc.) or will you focus on one activity?
I want to "do it all", but this year I plan on emphasizing the presentations and solar star party (weather permitting of course). I currently plan on buying only one item that I've already discussed with the vendor, but otherwise, this will not be a big spending year for me.
Have you made any major purchases at previous NEAFs?
Yes!! Last year I got a 5-inch APO refractor, and back when Televue had their "blem sales", I filled my eyepiece box with Naglers. Otherwise, it's been mostly smaller purchases of things like finders, filters, and tripods.
What is your favorite thing about NEAF?
It's hard to have just "one" favorite, but if pressed, it would be the opportunity to see much of the current equipment all in one place, with the opportunity to touch, test, and even discuss equipment with many of the makers. That is one thing that is unique to NEAF. There are friends, solar observing, presentations, and even some equipment at the major star parties, but only NEAF brings so much equipment to one place.
How has NEAF changed over the years?
It has only gotten far bigger and better! When I first started going, NEAF was held at the hotel, it was only one day, and had maybe a third of the vendors and stuff available. It really took less than a day to see everything. Today, I doubt that one person could experience it all.
What advice and suggestions would you have for a person attending NEAF for the first time?
It's going to be difficult to see and do everything, so make a plan, or you'll just wander around. If you are only coming one day, try and pick the best weather, because the solar observing is really something special. Give yourself plenty of time for going to/from the presentations, solar location, your car, etc. If you want to buy some of the more desirable and rare stuff (like a new model APO), get there early on Saturday, and head right to the vendor, money in hand. If there is some specific thing you need (like an unusual CCD filter or scope part) that a vendor might not bring, call them now and ask them to bring it and hold it for you. You can ask vendors to hold heavy items until you're ready to leave at the end of the day. Bring your own lunch and eat in your car or sitting out on the grass if it's nice. Buy the raffle tickets (No, don't!! I've won at least four prizes worth well over a grand, and I want to win again!!).
Thank you, George! Have a great time this year!