The first time I ever went to Naperville, the model room was relatively small - and packed, and of course very geared to STMFC with emphases on Sunshine. I even heard some commentary that the whole thing was a "Sunshine Infomercial". But funny thing is, I started bringing my 1990s diesel models as did others... and nobody complained.
I managed to attend most of the Naperville meets from 1995 to 2010, and I don't think I ever brought a steam era freight car and managed to enjoy myself anyway.
I missed St. Louis for the second straight year due to the conflict with Summerail at CUT. The latter is 20 miles away rather than 400, but TBQH I'd much rather be at an RPM meet than an 8 hour slide show. The dealers at Summerail this year consisted of railroadiana and Lionel. The guy with the crates of shelf-worn Intermountain kits hasn't even been there the last two years. Next year SR is reportedly moving out of Cincinnati due to CUT being under some major renovations, and I will be in St. Louis next year.
I missed Marion in 2014 due to being incapacitated, and I use the term quite literally. I've been sick, sore, broke, bummed, and other things but April 2014 I learned the true meaning of "incapacitated". That led to burning all of my vacation and sick time and not making any other RPM meets in 2014, changing jobs at the end of the year, and having to skip Cocoa Beach after making the first 14 (2001-2014)... in hindsight I probably should have gone anyway.
I've done a clinic every one of those 14 years at Cocoa Beach. Probably half of them have been passenger car related, but I've also done diesel clinics, caboose clinics, and kind of a generic clinic on the use of etched parts. I've also done clinics at Marion, and at WPM in the past. I got one and only one invitation to do a clinic at Naperville. It happened the first time that the Cincinnati NMRA show got rescheduled away from its long standing weekend into a direct conflict with Naperville. Out of loyalty to the Cincinnati show, I didn't go to Naperville... and I wasn't asked again to do a clinic. Turns out that loyalty was misplaced. At the 2005 NMRA National in Cincinnati, local support for RPM was virtually nonexistent. Well, the support from elsewhere was also nonexistent and hence 05 was my last NMRA national.
As to the subject of having only one clinic going at a time... Since I rarely attend any clinics at all, it's kind of a moot point. But the St. Louis model room stays busy in my experience, maybe 30-40 people go to a clinic and the rest stay in the model room. Same with Marion, one clinic at a time. At Naperville and Cocoa with something like 6 clinic rooms going at once, the model room can become desolate at times. It doesn't really matter to me - although from the perspective of the meet organizer, it seems like it would be a lot easier to fill 6 or 8 linear clinic slots than to fill 56 clinic slots with 5 or 6 happening at the same time, determining how to work within schedules, and allow for reruns of the more popular clinics.
As to why I don't attend clinics.... I'd just rather be out in the model room. A few presenters I'll almost always try to see. But I'm a lousy classroom learner. I can sit still for about one hour, in any given day. I'm sure I've missed some great clinics, but it's nothing personal. I'm sometimes surprised at who attends my clinics... or doesn't.
A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, I got the idea of having a national RPM "politburo", not so much to sanction events or create any over-arching rules and regulations as to who and what RPM is. I simply wanted to promote the concept. Promoting the concept was a good idea. The steering committee was a terrible idea. What has emerged in the way of regional and semi-national RPM meets is really better than anything I could have envisioned. Every meet is different and there are plenty of them now. Each with its own personality. I think it's great. There are some I no longer attend not so much because of personalities but because the focus shifted so far from modeling that I found myself alone in the model room like Mike Collins orbiting the moon in 1969. Some I just can't get to as easily as I used to... bopping out to California for a weekend isn't as attractive as it used to be, and now that I'm married it involves planning and paying for two, boarding the dogs, both of us getting time off work (even though we both work at the same place now).
I do miss the old Naperville meet. Martin Lofton was a manufacturer of high quality resin steam era freight car kits, and no doubt he started the meet to promote his livelihood. But he graciously allowed it to become much more, and permitting the diesel guys and the passenger car guys and modern guys space just enlarged the meet and made it THE RPM meet, while not hurting his business one bit. He had the vision. Mike Brock, John Golden, Dave Owens (I really would like to make it to the "other" Collinsvillle someday Dave, seriously) have all built on this concept and doing their own spin on it. Denis Blake started Marion as kind of an indie meet with less formality and it caught on right away. There are guys I can expect to see at all of these meets, and there are guys I'll see at only one of them, and they don't like the others. I think it's exactly what we need. We need variety, choices, personality... not homogeny. If you come to Marion expecting Naperville's 67 clinics, you'll be disappointed. It doesn't hurt to know people where you're going, and I've been around enough that I could probably go to an RPM meet anywhere in the continental US, some parts of Canada, and even in the U.K. and run into people I know.
There is a constant process of change... people get old, people retire, people die... products change, companies change hands. RPM's loose, non-organization is infinitely flexible. Anyone can start up an RPM meet - on their own, or as a team, with or without the NMRA insurance umbrella. It's kind of a free form, anything goes... kind of like a free society might do. I like it.
Hope to see many of you soon, somewhere. I would like to attend Lisle this year in the new venue, but haven't discussed it with Annette. I want to go to Cocoa Beach, but I don't know what the status of my work is going to be at the time. I don't believe the implementation project I'm working on will be at critical mass at the turn of the year, although there may be other things to consider. We typically drive down and turn CCB into a 10-11 day vacation. We may do that, or some abbreviated form.
And I plan to be in Marion next year, and St. Louis as well. And maybe that will be the year I make it to Collinsville back east as well.
As to California trips - I used to make them in conjunction with Winterail and WPM... both have changed venues and possibly timing. I still have friends in CA but many of them have scattered around. My best bet may be to try and make it to the BAPM meet next year and plan to stay a week, do the SF tourist stuff, and make sure to get some Boudin sourdough... whole lot cheaper than having it Fedexed!