Remembering the Amazing “History of Joelanta”

Today, we turn over the reins of The Joe Report to Marten Jallad, a longtime member of the Atlanta GIjOE Collector’s Club and one of the chief organizers of its upcoming Joelanta GIjOE and Action Figure Show (being held in Atlanta, GA, this coming March 13, 14 and 15th). Today, Marten’s going to reflect on the origins and history behind this incredibly popular GIjOE event. Take it away, Marten!

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GIjOE fan and collector, Marten Jallad (Photo: Marten Jallad)

Marten Jallad, GIjOE fan and co-organizer of Joelanta 2015 (Photo: Marten Jallad)

The History of Joelanta
by Marten Jallad, 2/27/15

Why start a toy show anyway?

Well, back around the late 1990s, GI Joe fans Buddy Finethy and Brian Becker realized that there must be more than just buying GI Joes off the shelves, so they decided to start the Atlanta GI Joe Club. By setting up at local toy shows and word of mouth, membership grew. Buddy also realized that so many of the local members may never be able to have the ability to attend one of the yearly national shows, so together with Jim Marianetti and Lanny Lathem they put on the very first Joelanta in May of 2001.

I don’t think that any of us who have been involved actively in its organization or who have attended as a patron every year could have ever imagined what the event would grow to become. Joelanta has not only grown to be the largest one sixth scale vintage GI Joe show in the country, but now it offers so much more. For example:

The Joelanta Film Festival

The Cursed Chest from artist Adam Hughes was one of the first entries into what has become the Joelanta Film Festival. Each year, many (often hilarious) action figure fan films are submitted and shown at the show. Some favorites including 2006 winner Plastic Chef  and All My Li’l Ninjas (shown above) by Jack Walsh. Government Issue Joseph episode #20, The Revenge of Sarah, films from Tim Weedn, Mike Trout and countless more. One year, we even debuted a seldom seen (ahead of their time) show called Pak Rats, that featured both Buddy’s and David’s collections!

E.J. White (l) charming an attendee at this year's Joelanta event in Atlanta, GA.In honor of the show's "Chronus Adventurer" exclusive, E.J. was sporting an 1880s top hat with exotic, "steampunk" goggles.

E.J. White (l) charms an attendee at Joelanta 2013. In honor of that show’s “Chronus Adventurer” exclusive, E.J. was sporting an 1880s top hat with a pair of exotically styled “steampunk” goggles. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

E.J. White’s World Famous Lobby Swap

You really have to experience this in person to see what all the fuss is about, but I’ll try and describe the event. As the momentum builds on Friday, as folks who have purchased Commander’s packages prepare for registration, the excitement is palpable. Everyone wants to start buying toys! Around 6pm-ish, all Commanders and dealers will start to bring down a tub of stuff for sale—and it begins! As the MC, EJ (one of Joelanta’s original members and founder of this event) will open the Lobby Swap up. Some dealers will set up displays in their room and make $1000’s before the show even starts. The event has spurned a couple a couple of T-shirts and Lobby Swap tote bags. This year, EJ is cooking up something extra special with a very limited run (20) Lobby Swap exclusive figures. (You may want to get on the list for this one!)

Bryan Tatum, mans his wares at 2013's Joelanta Lobby Swap event. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Bryan Tatum, selling some of his Joe-stuff at 2013’s Joelanta Lobby Swap event. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

The Joelanta Parachute Drop

The parachute drop is a MARVEL as the atrium turns into this huge frenzy of kids of all ages hurling their favorite Joes off any one of the 15 floors. It’s always fun to see the reaction of other hotel guests as they observe in amazement at the spectacle. Everyone is always holding their breath that none of the parachutes will fall down the elevator shaft, which a number of them have over the years (see 2012’s video below).

Bambi Lynn of Radio Cult (Photo: D. Glen McNeill)

Bambi Lynn of Radio Cult (Photo: D. Glen McNeill)

The Radio Cult Concert

There’s nothing like enjoying great music with your friends but that gets even better when your friends become part of the act. There’s always a rendition of Crocodile Rock by Captain Fantastic himself Mr E.J. White or David Lane and Mike Gardner jamming out, Don Coffee belting out Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” We really didn’t know how it would go over the first time but everyone had such a great time that it has now become a mainstay event .

Joelanta’s Custom Figure, Vehicle and Diorama Contests (with PRIZES!)

There has been such an amazing array of talented creators over the years and although largely one sixth scale, a surprising variety of items have been featured recently including some amazing Monster High customs. This part of the show is growing and we will be displaying all of this year’s entries in their own room for Joelanta 2015.

Patches of Pride was one of the sponsors of the Custom figures and Dioramas competition at Joelanta 2014. (Photo: Mark OTnes)

Patches of Pride is one of many sponsors that provide prizes for the winners of Joelanta’s custom figure and diorama competitions. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

For King and Country! Customizer extraordinaire, Mark Cole, created this outstanding custom British Soldier for the competition at Joelanta 2014. OutSTANDING! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

For King and Country! Customizer extraordinaire, Mark Cole, created this outstanding custom British Soldier for the competition at Joelanta 2014. OutSTANDING work in every way! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Mike Gardner discusses some of the techniques and methods he uses to create his 1:6 scale masterworks. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Mike Gardner discusses some of the techniques and methods he’s used to create 1:6 scale dioramas during a special panel discussion held at Joelanta 2014. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Joelanta’s Annual “Large Diorama”

Steve Bugg, Mike Gardner, Caleb Brown and Eric Nowles have been wowing the crowd with such notable dioramas as The Battle of Stalingrad, Wild West Ghost Town, a War of the Worlds-inspired Martian Walker, a Medieval Castle with a battle between knights and a skeleton army, Frankenstein’s Windmill, a Civil War train called “The General,” and the list just goes on and on. These spectacular dioramas are one of the main reasons why the show has become a leading supporter of the Cody Lane Foundation, a 501©3 non- profit organization with an ultimate goal of having a Toy and Diorama museum to preserve and share these magnificent works of art. The creators of these works also host special panel discussions to reveal their building and customizing “secrets” and answer questions from fans interested in building their own 1:6 scale dioramas.

Master diorama builder Steve Bugg (above) debuted his astonishing 1:6 scale "Battle of Atlanta" diorama at Joelanta 2014. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Master diorama builder Steve Bugg (above) debuted his astonishing 1:6 scale “Battle of Atlanta” diorama at last year’s Joelanta 2014 event. Look at those spiked barricades. OUCH! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

It's a Feeding FRENZY! As this closeup of master diorama builder Mike Gardner's tribute to the TV series, The Walking Dead

Feeding FRENZY—Joelanta 2014’s large diorama” was created by master customizer, Mike Gardner, who orchestrated this astounding tribute to AMC’s The Walking Dead. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Atlanta GIjOE Club logo

Atlanta GIjOE Club logo

The heart of Joelanta is—and will always be—the camaraderie between all the folks who come from all over the country to visit with friends. Joelanta has become one large family gathering that continues to grow with new members, as the show has now morphed with the addition of The Great Atlanta Toy Convention to include special guests, a pop culture car show and many special panels throughout Saturday and Sunday. For more information, please visit www.joelanta.org and like us on Facebook at Joelanta and The Great Atlanta Toy Convention HERE. Thanks—and GO JOE! —Marten Jallad

Bottom Line: We’d like to thank Marten for providing all the text and intel for this article and for all the hard work he continues to put into organizing and hosting Joelanta. A quick shout-out of thanks should also go to Jim Marianetti, Lanny Lathem, Buddy Finethy, David Lane and all of the other wonderful members (and families) of the Atlanta GIjOE Collector’s Club. Without their combined efforts, hard work, volunteer spirit and gung-ho enthusiasm, there would be no Joelanta. You’re all the BEST!

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