Photo: Mike Espino, AOAP
Photo: Mike Espino, AOAP

Aquatics professionals recently gathered in San Diego for the 2016 Association of Aquatic Professionals 5th Annual Conference and Exposition. The event took place March 7-10 at the Town and Country Resort and Convention Center. Attendees who came early were able to take advantage of pre-conference workshops that began on March 5, while those who lingered after the show continued their education at post-conference workshops.

"People are saying it's the best aquatic show [or conference] they've ever been to," said Juliene R. Hefter, executive director of the Association of Aquatic Professionals. "They truly enjoyed our show."

The event attracted 523 total attendees--the highest number the event has ever seen. Eighty-two exhibitors were at the show, including 10 new companies that have never exhibited before.

And although the show is a bit smaller than other aquatic events, it still made a positive impact on the exhibitors. “I was concerned about the size of the show, but [it was] very good,” said Tom Pellegrino of Eckel Industries in Cambridge, Mass. “We’re very pleased with the high degree of interest expressed by the attendees.”

Some exhibitors crossed not only the continent, but an entire ocean to get to the show. “I really enjoyed it,” said Christie Horne, marketing manager at Aflex Technology in Nelson, New Zealand. “There are a lot of people who are really passionate about the industry…I’m pretty confident we’ll come back next year.”

In addition to a bustling show floor and ample time to connect with other aquatic professionals, attendees had the opportunity to hear from distinguished speakers. Pat Brown, former Chief Weather Anchor at KGTV Channel 10 in San Diego gave the opening session/keynote speech, addressing the issue of work/life balance. Thomas Lachocki, Ph.D, CEO of the National Swimming Pool Foundation, gave the closing session/endnote address, which focused on fostering growth in the aquatics industry.

But the expo was not just a time to hear from the industry’s best and brightest and sign new customers. It was also a time to honor those who have made a huge impact in the aquatics industry. Aquatics International held its 2nd Annual Awards Breakfast on March 8. The event recognized the nominees of the 2016 Power Issue and 2015 winners of Best of Aquatics.

A special presentation was also given by City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation, winner of the 2015 Best of Aquatics. “It was really exciting, considering all of the candidates that [we were] up against,” said Noreena Ortega, aquatics coordinator for City of Phoenix Park and Recreation. “It was extremely rewarding to be honored.”

With all of the awards, high attendance numbers and education that was offered, even new attendees were impressed by the show. “The show went beautifully for me, says Bradie Allen, district aquatics facility and program supervisor for South Suburban Parks and Recreation District in Centennial, Colo., who attended the show for the first time. “I came home with pages and pages of notes which I can apply to infrastructure planning, …staff leadership development, recognition and motivation.”

If you missed the event this year you’ll have a chance to join the pros at AOAP at next year’s event. It will be held at the Trade Winds Resort in St. Pete Beach, Fla., February 6-9.