Most popular hobbies have their get-togethers or conventions, and the world of pipe smoking and collecting is no exception. Each year, pipe smokers’ clubs in various American cities host pipe shows, which are a combination of swap meet and unofficial trade show.

Pipe shows provide both novice and long-time smokers the opportunity to meet other pipe collectors and smokers, enhance their knowledge of the hobby, and just have a great time surrounded by a general blue haze of smoke. At the shows, many of the top tobacco manufacturers, pipe makers, and smokers/collectors gather to buy and sell pipes and pipe accessories; purchase established tobaccos and sample new releases; and share the camaraderie that is a hallmark of the pipe hobby. Old acquaintances are renewed, and new friends are made; and for those online, faces are finally matched up with screen names.

The usual routine at a pipe show consists first of an informal “pre-show” gathering. In the hotel where the show is held, many vendors will display their wares in their individual hotel rooms. Then, on Saturday, the show itself – lots of tables featuring pipes, tobaccos, accessories, books, humidors, and miscellaneous items relating to pipe smoking and collecting. This may be followed, at some shows, with a formal dinner in the evening. If the show is a two-day one, on Sunday the dealer tables will again be open, for half the day. Cigars and cigar accessories may be in evidence as well, but the shows are usually devoted to pipes.

There may also be a pipe smoking contest, in which participants vie to keep their pipe lit the longest. Each participant is given a measured amount of tobacco, one to two matches, and a few minutes to light their pipe. Then, the contest is on. No matter how long it takes (and it can take hours), the last person still producing smoke from their pipe is declared the winner.

Over the last decade, a number of shows have become regular events. They form a sort of pipe enthusiast’s calendar, and some of the more popular ones are:

St. Louis, Missouri (February) – This show is one day only. Regarded as one of the “must attend” shows. Hosted by the Gateway Area Pipe Club.
Fort Wayne, Indiana (March) – A relatively new city to appear on the pipe show circuit. Hosted by the Tri-State Pipe and Tobacco Club.
Chicago, Illinois (May) – The grand master of all pipe shows. The biggest, and some say, the best, of the shows. Anyone who is anyone in the pipe world will likely be at this two-day show. Hosted by the Chicagoland Pipe Collectors Club.
Tucson, Arizona (June) – Rapidly becoming one of the top quality West Coast pipe shows (Sacramento being the other). Hosted by the Old Pueblo Pipe Club.
Columbus, Ohio (August) – Hosted by the National Association of Pipe Smokers’ Clubs since 1993. The Columbus show is second in quality and reputation to the Chicago show.
Richmond, Virginia (October) – Another long running show, hosted by CORPS (Conclave of Richmond Pipe Smokers).
Kansas City, Missouri (November) – This show was first presented by the Greater Kansas City Pipe Club in 1998, and has acquired an excellent reputation. With the Chicago show, one of the few two-day shows.
Sacramento, California (November) – It’s not a question of the quality of this show, it’s a wonder that it happens at all, being based in one of the more smoke-unfriendly states. Hosted by the Sacramento Pipe Collector's Assembly.
Various Cities - For over 50 years, the International Association of Pipe Smokers' Clubs has sponsored an annual show and pipe smoking contest.

The only “requirement” for attendance at a pipe show is an interest, however large or small, in pipes or their accessories. They are a great deal of fun, for both old and new pipe smokers.


SOURCES

Much personal experience!
http://gosmokeshop.com/1202/calendar.htm (A general calendar of pipe-related events.)
http://www.pipestyle.com/FT%20WAYNE%20SHOW.htm (Ft. Wayne information.)
http://www.chicagopipeshow.com (The Chicago show's homepage.)
http://www.jack-tompkins.com/Pipes/OPPC/ (Homepage of the Old Tucson Pipe Club.)
http://www.naspc.org/ (Homepage of the National Ass'n of Pipe Collectors.)
http://www.corpipesmokers.org/ (Richmond and CORPS information.)
http://www.iaspc.net/ (Information about the IASPC and its annual pipe show/contest.)
http://www.geocities.com/gkcpc/ (Kansas City information.)