Southeastern Model Show / Perry Swap Meet

Friends, fun, and deals!
let the bargains begin
01. Let the bargains begin! This was the view on Friday in one of the three buildings.
a shoutout to the ama support team
02. A shoutout to the AMA support team (L-R): Tony and Terri Stillman, Joyce Hager, Johnny Hunt, Andy Griffith, Lawrence Harville, and Lee Ray.

Road trip! That was the battle cry in my Suburban heading from Texas to Georgia. For the three RC geeks in my truck (Fitz Walker, Kirk Jensen, and I), this was our first time to attend the Southeastern Model Show (SMS), also known as the Perry Swap Meet. The event is run by members of the Georgia Aircraft Modelers Association (GAMA) at the Georgia National Fairgrounds & Agricenter in Perry, Georgia.

This event has been on my bucket list for years. I’ve seen the photos and have heard the tales, and kept seeing fellow club members return from their treks to SMS, displaying the amazing aircraft and hoard they obtained. Some of these aircraft were purchased at unbelievably low prices. They spoke of rare vintage kits, glow engines for pennies on the dollar, and incredible deals on electronic parts. After all of those years of letting SMS pass me by, I called my buddies, booked a hotel, loaded up a nearly empty trailer, and headed out to see this magical show.

if you wanted a model engine
03. If you wanted a model engine, you could easily find one from the thousands that were available during the swap meet.
vendors set up friday morning for the big day
04. Vendors set up Friday morning for the big day at the SMS/Perry Swap Meet.

Being a newcomer, I wasn’t sure what to expect at this year’s event on April 4-5, 2022. A visit to the club’s newly designed website, created by GAMA secretary/treasurer Kevin Bartoe, gave me a better understanding. There are more than 1,100 tables to be purchased, all conveniently available to reserve using the new online payment system.

Catching up with Kevin during the swap meet, he mentioned that 267 vendors signed up and booked every available table. More than 1,800 admission tickets were bought, which was better than the previous 5 years, and it was one of the best shows in 10 years. Kevin shared that the event has been held at the Georgia National Fairgrounds venue for the past 28 years. Proceeds from this year’s swap meet will help pay for the club’s new US Fabrics geotextile runway. Canceling the 2021 swap meet because of COVID-19 was unfortunate, but for two years, people have been hoarding items to sell. There was no doubt that this year was going to be a big event.

How big is it? The swap meet encompasses three huge halls, with tables, airplanes, parts, vendors, and people everywhere. You might think it would be easy to walk down each aisle to see it all, but it’s not. One is easily distracted by sparkly, shiny things. You stare at one item for a second, and then, out the corner of your eye, you see a rare NIB kit that you remember building as a kid. Staying focused is a constant fight.

After multiple distractions, you realize you’ve walked halfway across the hall, missing everything in between. You turn around, retrace your steps, then poof—two hours have passed by! Did I mention that you definitely want to wear comfortable shoes? Those of you who use a step-tracker app will reach your daily goal in no time. I must admit, I was extremely tired after walking the entire event on Friday and still felt that I had only scratched the surface of seeing all of the gems for sale.

My advice for those of you who hope to attend the show next year is to come with a plan. I realized that I wasn’t prepared for the event because my sole intention was to experience and enjoy it (which I did). For example, if you want to sell items, consider getting two tables or find a way to make your table stand out.

With so many tables and items scattered about, they get lost in the crowds. Put up signs, tag prices on everything, and, most of all, stay at your table or have a friend watch it. I brought a few items to sell and walked away to peruse other tables, only to return to learn that a customer had an interest in one of my airplanes but left because I wasn’t there. The same thing happened to me when I wanted to buy an electric motor at one table, but no one was there to take my money.

If you’re there to buy, the most important advice is to arrive when the doors open. Make a detailed list of everything you want. Look for vendors with four or more tables and ask if they have what you need. These sellers know what they brought and will likely respond with a quick yes, no, maybe, or check this box. You’ll waste valuable time trying to scan every item on a table or in cluttered boxes.

when you get a good spot you come up with unique ways to display
05. When you get a good spot, you come up with unique ways to display all of your aircraft for sale.
ama staff members lee and tony visited with ama district v vice president andy griffith
06. (L-R): AMA staff members Lee and Tony visited with AMA District V Vice President Andy Griffith.

Stay focused and carefully walk down each aisle, looking for the items you want. As I mentioned, I was easily distracted by so many airplanes and boxes and I regret not searching harder for the items that I needed.

Finally, negotiate. Many vendors travel from out of state and they would prefer not to haul everything back home. I’m not suggesting that you low-ball them, but perhaps make a package deal on several items so that you can obtain that one main item at a fair price for both parties.

Although I did not come home with as many items as my traveling friends, I’m so glad that we brought a trailer! I picked up RC parts for a young AMA member’s new model airplane, a small drone for our Boy Scout troop, and several electronic gadgets for my personal projects. The fun of hanging out with my fellow modelers and coworkers at this event was a great experience. It was definitely one of the best swap meets that I’ve ever attended, and I’m looking forward to putting it on my calendar for next year.

Fitz Walker’s Impressions

I’ve been to a lot of swap meets—East Coast, West Coast, and mainly in Texas, where everything is big. None of those past events compare with what I saw in Perry. This is a swap meet of epic proportions. Although I had heard much about it, nothing compares to actually being there.

It was a bit of a drive from Houston, but carpooling with two other modelers made the trip much easier. Bringing a trailer helped lug all of our goods both to and from the event. Although I had a table to sell some wares, I spent most of my time wandering around the three huge buildings, all filled with RC goodness. I was warned to bring comfortable shoes and I was glad I did.

I must have walked several miles throughout the two days of the event. I had a rough wish list of items that I wanted, and I found at least two or three, including some relatively rare things.

As is usually the case with swap meets, I found several items that weren’t on my list but I just had to have, including an N9M flying wing short kit and a Giant Scale Kawasaki Ki-61 Tony short kit. Countless other small modeling supplies and tidbits also made their trip back home with me, including some plastic models.

One of my great pleasures was being able to facilitate purchases for friends who couldn’t make it. This often involved a flurry of texts and occasionally speaking to a real human, and even a purchase request real-time on one of our live YouTube broadcasts. The things I do for friends …

The Perry Swap Meet was great fun (if a little hurtful to the wallet, but my money went far), and, with few exceptions, the people there were delightful to talk to and interact with. If you have never been there, it is a must-do for any serious swap meet aficionado.

Tony Stillman’s Impressions

I began attending this show in its first year—I think it was roughly 1988 or so. That first event was held at Robbins Air Force Base in Perry, at a gym on the base. It was your typical club swap meet with 20 or so tables. My business, Radio South, was invited to attend and do 72 MHz transmitter narrowband modifications.

one mans junk is another mans treasure
07. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure. There were so many airplanes from which to choose!
good friends who made the trip from texas to georgia
08. Good friends who made the trip from Texas to Georgia (LR): Lee, Fitz, and Kirk Jensen.
gama secretary and treasurer kevin bartoe
09. GAMA Secretary and Treasurer Kevin Bartoe is with AMA Social Media Manager Lee.

I have attended this event every year since, and it has grown steadily, but when the club moved to the Georgia National Fairgrounds, it exploded in attendance. Today it is a huge event, boasting more than 1,100 swap tables and dozens of vendors and manufacturers! The show is incredible, and it’s hard to explain how big it is unless you attend for yourself.

This year, I met up with Lee and Fitz (RC Roundtable cohosts) at the show. I think they were blown away by the sheer size of it and the amount of RC goodies on display, both new and used. I recorded a live YouTube video with Fitz, which was a lot of fun. We walked around one of the largest buildings, visited with attendees (buyers and sellers), and enjoyed the fun and camaraderie that is the hobby of model aviation.

When you’re there, you’re always on the lookout for the great deal, that hard-to-find kit or motor, and an occasional unexpected item that might await you at the next table. The show keeps you keenly scanning the items on the tables around you. I happened upon a gentleman selling two Mac’s Products 10cc Quiet Pipes, both used. I made an offer for both, and suddenly they were mine!

My wife, Terri, was out looking as well and purchased a set of large RC plans without telling me. She wants to use them to wallpaper the outside of my Radio South repair room in our basement. That sounds cool. I can’t wait to see how that will work out!

Along with all of the cool stuff, there are vendors that have come from throughout the area to sell their wares. Some that I visited included Futaba USA, Extreme Flight, and Flex Innovations. These are major players in the RC world. It is nice to have them present to show their products and have a chance to talk with them about their products and get that personal, face-to-face experience.

These companies went to quite a bit of trouble to bring items for sale and to meet with customers to answer questions. A big thank-you to these and other companies that attended to support SMS 2022. It’s this kind of experience that you will only get at a large model event, where companies feel they will get a good return on their cost to attend.

There is no way to explain it. You must experience it yourself. It should be on your bucket list for 2023, so start making plans now to attend. I know I will.



RC Roundtable

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