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Richmond Pipe Show - The 33rd Annual Pipe Smokers Gathering Is Coming Back to Richmond

Richmond Pipe Show - The 33rd Annual Pipe Smokers Gathering Is Coming Back to Richmond

Posted by Greg Rosenberg on 24th Aug 2021

Richmond Pipe Show

CORPS Show Specifics

When?

The 33rd Annual Pipe Smokers Gathering will be held on Friday October 1 - Saturday October 2, 2021. Friday’s festivities will be between 9:00 am to 7:00 pm and will include factory tours, seminars, and a swap meet. There will be a BBQ dinner and food trucks will be onsite.

Saturday’s events will be between 9:00 am - 5:00 pm. This will be the exhibitor day, no tours or seminars. Food Trucks will be onsite.

Where?

The event will be held at Sutliff Tobacco Co. in the Manchester neighborhood of Richmond. The official hotel for the event is The Omni located in downtown Richmond. You can get a group discount by reserving at 1-800-THEOMNI using the Group Discount Name: The Conclave of Richmond Pipe Smokers. But, there are limited rooms, so reserve yours as soon as possible.

There will be no parking available on site but a shuttle will run from The Omni to the Sutliff building.

What’s the Cost?

Friday will be free, Saturday will be $5.00 (cash only).

For information on Registering for a table or any other questions regarding the event, you can visit the CORPS website for more information.


The CORPS Show is Quickly Approaching

The wait is nearly over. Come the weekend of October 1-2, 2021, the Conclave of Richmond Pipe Smokers (CORPS) will be hosting their annual Pipe Smokers Gathering here at the Sutliff Tobacco building in Richmond, Virginia. The longest running pipe show in the world, since 1985 this tradition has been going strong, bringing pipe enthusiasts together from all around the world to share in their tobacco pipe passion. With last year’s cancellation in the wake of the pandemic, we couldn’t be more ready to indulge in this fantastic community in the best way possible—at the CORPS Annual Pipe Smokers Gathering.

What’s the Deal with Pipe Shows Anyway?

For many readers, this is like asking why the World Series is special for Baseball fans, but bear with me. For our truly green pipe friends, let’s start with what’s so special about pipe shows in general, and what they really mean to this community of ours. Then we’ll narrow our scope to what this show is all about.

Lighting up for the pipe smoking competition (1988)

It can be hard to imagine, especially for us younger pipe smokers, but there was a time when pipe smoking was ubiquitous—”well I always saw my grandpa with a pipe” is the cliché origin story for many enjoying the hobby today. There just aren’t so many of us anymore, at least, not everywhere you turn like cigarette smokers, and even they’ve dwindled over the years. On the bright side, what we lack in numbers, we make up for in passion—in a strong core. Sometimes it’s not about quantity, and pipe smokers the world over are notorious for enjoying their pipecraft with care—with preserving the patient, ritualistic heritage of smoking a pipe.

It is this very ethos that makes us so drawn to the social aspect of pipe smoking, and despite the fact that we aren’t the biggest clan, we’ve found ways to carve out community where we can. This gets to the point of why institutions like pipe conventions are especially crucial for the 21st century piper. They are staples of our pastime. Here, that core is brought together to revel in our shared passion.

And setting aside the sentimental stuff, it’s very simply exciting to be around so much pipe stuff. As pipe smokers, we’re used to the smoke shop being curated around other smoking mediums, nodding at us here and there, but ultimately relegating pipe smoking to a niche hobby. And hey, I get it, demand is demand, stock what’s selling. But with this in mind, walking into a room to see tables stacked with tins, spread with pipes, even binfuls nearly overflowing—well it’s just Wonka’s pipe factor isn’t it? I mean, this picture of an attendee scouring bins of pipes is almost hard to look at on the pain of pure envy.

Riffling through bins of pipes at the 2014 pipe show

Looking Back - The Club and Convention

Every pipe show is special, for the reasons mentioned above, and because no two are exactly alike—they each have their own charms. So let’s look back on the history of the Richmond Gathering of Pipe Smokers and of the pipers who have brought it to us all these years.

So What Is CORPS?

Meeting for CORPS 5th Anniversary

CORPS stands for the Conclave of Richmond Pipe Smokers. They are a pipe smoking club based in Richmond, Virginia, going strong since their founding in 1984. They were founded with the simple purpose of bringing local pipe smokers with a mutual appreciation for the craft together. After all, there’s nothing like sharing this hobby with others. How many of our own favorite tobaccos, pipes, and neat tips or tricks that we now swear by are the result of gabbing with a fellow enthusiast about their pipecraft? This is the magic of CORPS and pipe clubs in general.

And it’s this spirit that gives life to the pipe show in all its glory. You could say the pipe club meeting is the microcosm of the pipe show. This group and their tenets as pipe smokers being the soul of this tradition no doubt has much to do with the gathering’s lasting popularity with pipe smokers from around the world.

As per their own statement, CORPS “encourages the enjoyment, education and continuance of the ancient and honorable art and sport of pipe smoking and all positive aspects thereof.”

CORPS now

Now, roughly 37 years after the club’s first meeting, they still congregate once a month at a local Richmond establishment to chew the fat and smoke the pipe. And of course, continue to host the annual CORPS Pipe Smokers Gathering.

Pipe Smokers Gathering History

In 1985, one year into the club’s existence, they hosted the first gathering. In only its second year, the gathering garnered a good deal of attention, really solidifying its place on the calendars of pipe lovers around the world. It was this year that CORPS secured the preeminent pipe writer Richard Carleton Hacker as an MC and keynote speaker for the event. In also having local newscasting legend Gene Cox attend as a judge for the pipe smoking competition, the gathering received significant coverage from local television and print media.

Richard C Hacker speaking at 2nd Pipe Smoking Convention 1986

Ever since, the CORPS Pipe Smokers Gathering has been one of the most beloved events in the pipe world. Enthusiasts and vendors alike have come from across the country and across the sea to take part.

The 33rd Gathering - What’s to Come

“Comfort is one of the things I identify most with the CORPS show. The club members are so friendly, welcoming and willing to help that, if you can't feel relaxed at this show you never will.” - Russ Ouellette

If ever there was a time to attend the Richmond Pipe Show, this may be it. We have slogged through a year and then some, seeing treasured traditions and milestone events placed on the backburner or cancelled altogether. The camaraderie with our extended pipe smoking family has gone unsatiated for a long time.

Given last year’s cancelation, this will only be the second time the gathering is located at Sutliff Tobacco, and as many will remember from 2019, having the show at such a venue only elevated the already enshrined event. So what can we expect from this time around?

Take a Tour of the Sutliff Factory

More than offering a space for the event, the gracious hosts at Sutliff Tobacco will be giving tours of their factory. Come along and see the fascinating process of how your favorite tobaccos journey from long raw harvested stalks to the treasure packing your pipe.

Sutliff President Jeremy McKenna explaining the blending process to a tour group at the 2018 Factory Tour Extravaganza

Blending Seminar

The convention will also offer the chance to attend a blending seminar with one of the best in the business—Per Jensen.

Per Jensen has been Mac Baren’s product specialist since 2001. Per has been making pipes since he was 15. You can get a taste of the tobacco guru through the excellent educational videos on his YouTube channel, but of course, nothing beats having the teacher right in front of you! As Per says himself, “...if you're going to learn something, you have to do it yourself by being involved."

Per Jensen giving a Blending Seminar at the 2019 Richmond Pipe Smokers Gathering

To register for the factory tour and/or seminar, follow this link.

Swap Meet

Of course it wouldn't be a pipe show without the chance to shop around, and maybe even sell/trade your own pipes. A few hours on Friday afternoon will be allocated for this, but all of Saturday is exhibitor day. Schmooze with other pipers and vendors, share a bowl, and of course, seek out that perfect pipe (or several) to add to the collection.

Savinelli Pipes and Peterson Pipes exhibiting at the pipe show in 2019

In Conclusion

Pipecraft is a multifaceted business, which is probably why its devotees are as well—many of us appreciate pipes as works of art just as one might admire the fine craftsmanship of artisan furniture or some other, as we say, functional art. We are fascinated by old pipes and their history like any collector of antiques. We are particular about our preferred tobaccos, developing story-telling palates which invite us to postulate on the particulars of its journey from the field to our pipe chambers, much like a sommelier deciphering the properties of fine wine. Sometimes the appreciation is less as a connoisseur, and simply that pipe smoking is a pleasant, welcomed ritual we delight in, especially with some company. Whatever your niche is (and let’s be honest, most of us can say all of these factors weigh in to some degree), and whether you're a new pipe smoker, or an experienced one, the Richmond Pipe Smokers Gathering will gratify the pipe smoker in you.