Rubbing Shoulders with the Swollest of the Swoll at EuropaCon's Bodybuilding Expo

Categories: Events
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Patrick Michels
Year after year, these phones just keep getting smaller.
Not to take anything away from the good people at the GovEnergy federal electricity management trade show, but the biggest thing at the Dallas Convention Center over the weekend was, by far, the smorgasbord of hugeness, the ode to the swoll, the EuropaCon bodybuilding and muscle supplement expo. From the Jiu-Jitsu and arm-wrestling tournaments to the parade of bluster and burl in the main stage competitions, the DCC was coursing with enough testosterone (and God knows what else) to power Ernest Borgnine through a yellow-jersey ride through the Pyrenees.

Even the weekender muscle hobbyists had a hard time squeezing past one another down aisles of T-shirt stands and protein shake samples, but there was one sure way to tell the professionals from the weekend lifters: Only the pros were bright greasy orange.

While Photo Intern Evan had the market cornered on QuakeCon photography last weekend, I had a feeling Europa Expo might have even greater photo potential. They'd even booked a car show. From the grappling contests to the lonely Hawaiian-shirted guy selling spy cameras, it really was a wild scene, the strangest moments heightened by an extreme air of self-seriousness.

For a bodybuilding expo first-timer like myself (this year marked the 17th annual EuropaCon), the color was shocking -- well beyond "too many trips to the tanning bed," or even a Florida retiree leather look. Fry up a guy like a Buffalo wing, and he might turn the same color, and look about as comfortable as the folks waiting backstage for the International Federation of BodyBuilders contest.

By late Saturday afternoon, I'd missed the "Hot 'Fit' Moms" competition, but just made it in time for the women's bodybuilding finals. Called onstage by a white-suited guy brimming with Shooter McGavin sleaze, women from around the world took their turns running through elaborate routines that were equal parts yoga, striptease and gymnastics, in a series of moves to accentuate their unlikely contours. Ripping off a coat to start her routine, German woman woke babies in the crowd with the first beats of her driving techno backing music. An American bodybuilder danced to a club mix of "Over the Rainbow," skipping onstage with a picnic basket and peeling off her clothes piece by piece, revealing a new Wizard of Oz character costume with each layer.

The men's competition that followed seemed like a more traditional bodybuilding flex-off, with one top-heavy carotenoid after another taking the stage, with some obscene Tai Chi routine gripping their own wrists and reaching for make-believe stars while families looked on from folding chairs.

Impressive? Totally. Though it's still tough to fathom how much work went into getting some of the expo's most extreme sets of shoulders or pecs. The bodybuilders were clearly a tight-knit bunch anxious to support each other after their routines, and I spoke with some supplement cookers who'd devoted decades to the formulas they were selling on the trade show floor, but -- outside the Jiui-Jitsu mats or the inflatable shark-shaped kids' slide -- nobody seemed to be having a whole lot of fun.

None of which should keep you from enjoying a slide show from the event, which we've got for you right here.

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