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Monday, February 25, 2013


Nine months before DRUPA would open its doors, the organizers' New York representatives visited our offices to discuss promotional plans for the big event. I could see they had finely honed marketing efforts and treated the press like royalty But none of us at GAM planning to attend realized just how well treated we would be. The massive exhibitor told us the would be running page spreads beginning in January and running through April to promote attendance in the USA. Several months later, I contacted them to report the sale to Heidelberg, which would support a 13th issue in August covering the exhibit. And they became more helpful. They made a reservation for me at The Steigenberger Parkhotel (The Park, for short)  in Dusseldorf. I noted that we had others attending and they explained that hotel room reservations were made years in advance. All of us were  DRUPA rookies and didn't realized how difficult it would be to secure hotel rooms. So Roger Ynostroza, planning to bring his wife, Judy, and Ron Andriani, traveling solo, were forced to reserve rooms in Koln (Cologne) a 45 minute train ride to and from Dusseldorf, the site of the Messe (fairgrounds). About a month before we were to depart, we received packages with our press credentials and a DRUPA catalog, a pocket sized book, at least two inches thick, sporting a bright red cover.

The Lufthansa flight was uneventful and we arrived in a jet lagged condition in early June. I rented a yellow Mercedes from Hertz, and Carol and I drove to the hotel without incident. It was unusually warm in Europe that summer, and as we entered the hotel's circular driveway, Carol uttered an "oh-oh". "What the matter?" I asked. She had noticed that all of the windows in the Park were open. "It doesn't look like the place is air-conditioned,"  she observed. She had hit the nail on the head. The hotel itself was a four-star facility, but after we checked in, we found only a fan on the ceiling of our spacious room. We decided to take a stroll through the nearby park, before  taking the required  nap to adjust the the new time zone. That evening there was a special event for dignitaries and the press was included. The affair was held at the opera house next door to our hotel. How convenient was that? A cocktail party preceded a performance of Die Fledermaus. We were surprised at how many of the invitees were dressed in formal attire. We weren't surprised by the number of Americans sitting near us who had dozed off because of jet lag. Actually, at one point, we quietly laughed, as we spotted more and more familiar faces with eyes closed.

The next day we drove to the fairgrounds to meet our crew at the information building where most of the press conferences would be held. We parked our rental in one of the immense parking lots and took a shuttle bus, a drive of about 15 minutes, to the fairgrounds. I had carefully written down the aisle number in an notebook. (Remember C16.)  The flags and banners waved in the very warm summer breeze that welcomed us to the Messe. It was much like approaching a World's Fair, with small bands entertaining visitors at every entrance. I felt like I was reliving my visits to the New York Fair in 1964 and the one in Osaka, Japan in 1970. When we arrived at the press building, several of the DRUPA staff greeted us. When I told them of our long trip to and from the parking lot, they advised me there was a special parking area for press adjacent to Building One, Heidelberg's hall. I was given a pass, which later that day, I realized was so very valuable.

We picked up our press conference schedule and found only a couple of smaller companies would be holding briefings the first day. The big one was the Heidelberg affair, held in their exhibit space after the show ended the first day. The building was packed and I realized what an international entity it was. It also demonstrated the scope of the printing industry 30 years ago. Britain had six publications, Germany, five, France, three, and even the Scandinavian countries each had a magazine serving the printing markets. India,  China and Japan were also represented and the languages being spoken throughout the briefings made for a cacophony of sound similar to a angry traffic jam. Most of the briefings were in English, which took the pressure of translation out of the mix and we were able to take notes that would made sense when we wrote our stories..

Following the final press meeting that day, Roger, Judy, Ron, Carol and I headed for my parking spot. Since there was not a social event scheduled for Day One, we were going to the Old Town section of Dusseldorf for dinner and a couple of beers. On the shuttle, I learned there were three parking lots, not just one. I knew I was parked in aisle C16, but in which parking area? That's when I discovered that Hertz rentals were all yellow Mercedes. Looking for the car was like looking for a needle in a haystack.  At one point we spotted +Chester Carlson+, president of Carlson, Inc., a firm that manufactured measuring devices in Minnesota. He, too, was unable to find his car. It took us an hour, but working in teams, we finally found our transportation home. Exhausted from a very long day, I made a wrong turn somewhere. "I think we're lost," I said out loud, as  I honked, rolled down my window, and asked in my broken German, "How do I get to the Steigenberger Parkhotel?" The couple answered in German, and I nodded my head in hearing links (left) and recht (right). "Ja,Ja,Ja, " I responded.

I rolled up the window shutting out the blast of heat that had entered the car. I could hear all of my passengers laughing loudly. Ron commented, "Like you really understood them." Except for Carol, the three in the back seat didn't know that I had picked up some German on previous trips when I was publishing Paper Trade Journal They also had no idea that I had acquired a set of Berlitz tapes, which replaced music on my drives to and from my home to my office. "Don't worry, we'll be at the hotel in 15 minutes," I defiantly stated. And once again they laughed hysterically. Fifteen minutes later, as we drove into the Steigenberger Parkhotel driveway,  I notice looks of dismay had replaced the laughter. In unison, they asked rhetorically, "You speak German?"