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2017 Arnold Sports Festival featuring Ben Tatar | Critical Bench

Interviewed by Chris Wilson, Head Strength Coach

Chris Wilson: How was the 2017 Arnold Sports Festival Amazing and What Could Have Been Better? Explain why?

Ben Tatar: Here’s how the Arnold Sports Festival was AMAZING and where it could have been better. I will explain the reasons for each.

How was the 2017 Arnold ‘Amazing’?

The networking opportunities. I have been networking with the best in the fitness industry for over twenty years. That means every time I walk down the Arnold Sports Festival floor I feel a magical aura and this aura builds every single year as new history is always made! I am in a constant state of excitement the entire time I’m there and I love my connections with all of my friends from all across the globe. The Arnold (ASF) is something I look forward to all year long.

How could have the 2017 Arnold ‘Been Better’?

When I walked the Arnold Expo floor, I had one moment when I said to myself, “Why is there a two-hour line for Paige Hathaway? I met her in a Las Vegas VIP party and I could talk all I wanted with her or pick her up over my head.” Then I saw Jon Bones Jones with a three-hour line and I thought “I saw him at the hotel and had dinner with him.” When I walked around the expo, I literally thought, “I have met all of these celebrities in more personal settings without all these crowds. I have met much bigger stars than these at other events without these lines. What am I doing here?”

Another issue was that in the strongman contest one of the heavy favorites, Zydrunas Savickas got injured in training. He was Brian Shaw’s top competitor. The Arnold didn’t have the WWE experience (where all the wrestlers come) like in past years. They didn’t bring in any new big names and the Arnold didn’t have the NFL Hall of Fame this year in the convention center with NFL hall of famers.

The after parties weren’t nearly as good as they were in 2011. With adversity, though, new doors open. For example, I bonded more with friends like Angela Faith Jones, Tiny Meeker, Rob Jones, friends at the GLC 2000 Booth and other companies.

I also went to the Kids’ Expo. The Kids’ Expo was amazing because it had everything the Arnold had without the crowds. I made all types of discoveries and did great things that I wouldn’t have done if everything was great from first glance. It actually worked out well in the end!

CW: Who was the FREAKIEST dude there? Who was the biggest celebrity there (besides Arnold), and who was a huge let down?

BT: I saw the biggest celebrity names at the Makeitfit Charity Event for Autism. The celebrities at the event included Chris Andersen who won the NBA championship with that 66-13 Miami Heat team and last year’s Cleveland Cavaliers who beat the 73-9 Golden State Warriors in the NBA championship.

Six time Mr. Olympia, Phil Heath was there as were players from the NJ Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers. Some of the big name celebrities who were there were: 50 cent, Jon Bones Jones the most unstoppable UFC fighter, UFC champ Stipe Miocic, Randy Couture, the Cleveland Cavalier Cheerleaders, Columbus Blue Jacket Players, Columbus Clippers, the Ohio State Cheerleaders/Players and a few other fighters.

Most celebrities were fitness related. Many of the celebrities who were at the expo can be found on: http://www.arnoldsportsfestival.com/visitor-info/special-guests/

The freakiest dude? It’s hard to compare athletes and lifters from different sports. It’s hard to compare a 6′ 9 450lbs strongman champ like Brian Shaw to Glenn Ross, a 6’1 580lbs strongman. It’s also hard to compare a powerlifter who is 5′ 10 and 400lbs to a 5′ 9 300lbs ripped bodybuilder to the gills with 25 inch arms.

The Arnold has all of these freaks and then some. However, it’s only fair that I give a freak award out as I do every single year. When I look for a freak champ, I look for three things. These things include 1) freaky hugeness 2) their story 3) having an energy or edge about them.

This year I want to give my king of freaks award to…. Frank X Budelewski. He stands at 6’4 and weighs 370lbs. His pic next to me speaks for itself.

For the huge let down? I observed some odd interactions others had with some of the celebrities but nothing that truly qualifies as a major let down.

CW: Besides the main event (bodybuilding contest) what other attraction was the most exciting and well attended?

BT: Everyone who sees the bodybuilding sees the strongman contest at the finals since they are on the same stage. This means that all the events get the same following. During the day time, the Strongman gets the biggest following followed by the female bikini and figure type competitions. Every event has a decent following, and you have to get a seat early since over 200,000 visit the convention center during the weekend.

CW: If you could hang out with ANY 3 people at the ASF, who would they be and why?

BT: Well, if I excluded anyone from my list I would have lots of freaks and models wanting to kick my butt!!! Hahahaha.
However, I will say this:

I would like to bring the dead back! I wish I could see Mike Witmer, Sean Jones and Dean Bennett at these events again. Check out some of the articles they have done with me in past years:

Dean Bennett asking me 50 questions at the 08 Arnold:
http://www.criticalbench.com/2008-Arnold-Expo-Report.htm

Dean Bennett Interviewing me:
http://www.criticalbench.com/ben-tatar/

My tribute to Witmer for powerlifting USA Magazine:
http://www.criticalbench.com/tribute_Mike_Witmer.htm

I’m sure they are with me in spirit but it would be cool to hang with them like I used to.

I would like to see Critical Chris and Mike Westerdal come out for an Arnold event one day! You know, have the CB family come and enjoy the weekend together.

As I said earlier, the more I come to this event, the more I’m reminded of the great people I’ve met over the years who are no longer with us and I think of them during my time at the ASF. So many great people that are gone too soon and this is mentally with me all the time.
I was also very glad to see everyone who was there this year. I would like to give a shout out to everyone who engaged with me during Arnold Weekend. I can’t acknowledge them all, the list would be over one hundred people.

CW: Do you have any advice for people who attend the Arnold?

BT: Yes, drink responsibly and don’t waste all of your energy on athletic challenges during day one. The expo has over 1,000 booths and if you’re like me, you’re on your feet moving all day. If you’re not feeling yourself or did an athletic/strength challenge early, getting around the expo will be more challenging than competing in a Tough Mudder event. It’s best to save the competitive challenges and the heavy partying until the end.

Also, be careful with the FREE supplements and energy drinks. I took too many energy supplements back in 2005 and I was shaking like crazy the whole day. I couldn’t even take a picture because my finger was bouncing. Gladly, they don’t give these energy supplement bottles today like they once did.

When you network with someone, always know who they are before you talk to them; you will be far more credible right from the start. When you know something about someone, often they hug you right away. If you don’t, it’s harder to build rapport and engage in quality conversation. It’s better to ask for a pic and be positive. At least pics are flattering and making videos can be fun!

Lastly, people who attend these events are expecting a weekend that they can’t get anywhere else. They are going to bring their most outgoing selves. Have a blast, don’t hold back and enjoy yourself. Treat each second as special. The road and bonds can be unlimited.

CW: What new events were at the Arnold?

BT: The Arnold has events now like lacrosse, disabled powerlifting, yoga, handball, indoor Scottish highland games, Arnold pro strong woman and Arnold transformation challenges. As you can see, the Arnold has continued to grow!

The Arnold has gotten so huge that there are three stages at the Arnold. They have the Main stage, the Rogue strength stage and the Concourse stage. Although so many events are at the Convention center they have shuttle buses going to different locations.

For example, there is soccer at the Bo Jackson’s Elite Sports event. Swimming is at the New Albany High School. Disc Golf is at Walnut Hill. The indoor triathlon is at the Sawmill Athletic Club. 50+ DanceSport is at Sheraton Capitol square. Lacrosse is at the Taft Coliseum. Boxing is at the Ohio building. Table tennis is at the Voinovich Center. There is just so much and there are buses and info stations telling you where you need to be.

Personally, I think the growth is great for the mainstream. In past years, everything was at the Convention Center. Then parents didn’t want their kids to be around the booth girls or around supplements. Now kids have 200 vendors or can try every sport out at the Kids’ Expo. You have tons of non lifting events at different venues and the hardcore stuff is always at the expo with the exception of a few powerlifting events. There is greater variety of things to do.

CW: Is the ASF worth attending if you are NOT interested in bodybuilding? Explain

BT: Most of the lines are for famous people. Many people go to hang out with models, UFC fighters and pro athletes. The Arnold is so vast that they have everything. Here are some attractions during Arnold weekend:

Kids’ Expo– There is a Kids’ Expo with super heroes dressed up in costumes and athletic games/ athletic challenges going on all day. They have NFL athletes and celebrities.

70+ competitions– they have 70 competitions going on that aren’t bodybuilding related.

The Convention Center– I know non-bodybuilding fans who like sports and find plenty to do during the Arnold. The Arnold is more of a true ‘Sports Festival’ and has been since 2006. Many of the people I know who aren’t into bodybuilding are hanging with UFC fighters at the hotel and then working out with them.

So, really the Arnold has something for everyone. Next year will be the Arnold’s 30th anniversary and I will be there. I hope to see you there too!

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