Aquatics professionals gathered in St. Pete Beach, Fla., for the 2017 Association of Aquatic Professionals' 6th Annual Conference and Exposition. The event took place February 6-9 at the TradeWinds Island Resort, with pre-conference sessions held February 4-5.

“It was a grand success,” said Juliene Hefter, executive director of AOAP. “[We] probably [received] the most positive evaluations we’ve ever received to date.”

The event drew 572 attendees to St. Pete Beach — the highest number the conference has ever seen, Hefter said. Exhibitors filled 89 booths, with eight of those companies new to the Expo. Hefter attributes the event’s growth to word of mouth. “As the word gets out, we continue to grow and we also continue to investigate and attract new partner groups,” she said.

The conference has gained a reputation for its quality of education and speakers, said Nichole Bohner, aquatics manager for the City of Round Rock, Texas, a five-time attendee who presented at this year's event. “It’s rich with information,” said Bohner. “It’s hard to choose between the sessions because there are so many good [ones].”

Educational offerings this year focused on a variety of topics, including basic water chemistry, leisure pool refurbishing and mystery shopper lifeguard audits. And for the first time, the Red Cross offered training for its new lifeguarding program, as well as instructor trainer training.

Another big draw to the event is its diversity of aquatic disciplines, attendees said. Represented at the show were professionals from municipalities, universities, and pool management corporations, said attendee and presenter Pete DeQuincy, aquatic manager for the East Bay Regional Park District in Oakland, Calif. He notes that, since many pool professionals cross over into different areas within the industry throughout their careers, the information gained at the show can benefit them no matter what industry segment they venture into.

The event also gave industry professionals an opportunity to honor those who have made a positive impact in the aquatics industry. Aquatics International held its 3rd Annual Awards Breakfast on February 7. The event recognized the nominees of AI’s 2017 Power Issue and the 2016 winners of Best of Aquatics.

Next year’s AOAP conference will be held Feb. 5-8, 2018, at the TradeWinds Island Resort in St. Pete Beach, Florida.