LISLE, IL -- Last week's American Amusement Machine Association annual membership and board meeting was among the best attended -- and action-packed -- in recent times. Among the highlights: 11 product presentations by manufacturers spanning two days; a live update on possible changes to the composition of U.S. coins by Mint studies director Jon Cameron; and the Distributor Gala, where more than two dozen new amusement concepts were previewed.
The climax, however, was a celebration awards dinner on Thursday evening, Aug. 7, honoring Rick Kirby, who was presented with AAMA's Lifetime Achievement Award earlier this year. Kirby is a longtime executive of Betson Enterprises and past chairman of AAMA (1995-1997).
Kirby began his coin-op career at Bally N.E. Distributing Inc. (Dedham, MA) in the late 1970s. He was one of the four founders of New England Coin-Op Distributing (NECO), which was acquired by H. Betti Industries in the mid-1980s and folded into Betson Enterprises, HBI's distribution division. The other founding members of NECO were Dick Donlan, owner of East Coast Amusements Inc., a distributorship and service shop based in Canton, MA; Bob Donnelly, who later worked for Betson and is currently an executive director at Heartland Payment Systems; and the late Dave Tucker, who started his career at Atari, and Rowe and Bally's distribution offices in the Northeast.
"We are here to recognize someone who has touched all our lives and has been a mentor of mine for many, many years," said AAMA president Peter Gustafson, Sega Amusements. "Rick Kirby has been a selfless contributor and industry leader for as long as I can remember."
Gustafson and AAMA executive vice-president John Schultz bestowed this year's Joe Robbins Award on Crane Payment Innovation's Chris Felix. The Joe Robbins Award is AAMA's highest honor, named in memory of the industry pioneer who played a leading role in forming the association in 1981.
AAMA's Shining Star award went to Jim Hines of Firestone Financial Corp. The Shining Star recognizes a member's tireless service to the association, and its recipient is selected by AAMA's staff.
The AAMA's annual board meeting was held at the Hilton Lisle in Lisle, IL, Aug. 4-7. More AAMA meeting coverage will be posted at vendingtimes.com throughout August.
RICK KIRBY: "Some 30-plus years ago when I was hired into this industry, the first thing I was told was: 'once you get in, it is very tough to leave.' Nothing could be truer. I can honestly tell you that I wake up every morning looking forward to going to work," said AAMA's Lifetime Achievement Award winner.
CHRIS FELIX: AAMA executive vice-president (l.) John Schultz and president Pete Gustafson (r.) present much-admired Joe Robbins Award to CPI's Chris Felix.
JIM HINES: AAMA staffer members Tina Schwartz (l.), Ashley Davis and John Schultz (r.) present Shining Star Award to Firestone's Jim Hines.