Photo courtesy WWA

For the first time in 10 years, the waterparks industry gathered at Walt Disney World Resort for the World Waterpark Association's biggest event.

By all accounts, the venue -- said to be one of the most popular for the event -- did not disappoint. Organizers said the 39th Annual Symposium & Trade Show set the scene for more than 1,800 owners, operators, developers, suppliers and designers to take part in the trade show and educational conference.

“Working with a partner like Disney allowed us to deliver on all the things our attendees expect from us, but with even more ‘magic,’” said WWA President Rick Root. “We saw impressive attendance in our educational programs, in the support from our sponsors and in the turnout to our fantastic networking events.”

Attendees represented 23 countries and six continents, and included more than 300 first-time attendees.

“I have been attending WWA conferences since 2005 and I truly believe this year’s WWA Show was the best by far,” said Beth Scheimann, aquatics manager for Greenville County Parks, Recreation & Tourism. “It was truly amazing and inspiring to see so many first-timers attend and the breakout sessions were top notch, informative and presented realistic scenarios that we can all relate to.”

Added Dana Staniunas, director of recreation for Massanutten Resort: “The WWA Show helped me build connections. As operators, we are all after the same goal: to provide great experiences to drive our business. Being able to pick up the phone or send an email to a fellow operator to discuss solutions to challenges is invaluable.”

More than 100 speakers shared their best ideas on issues such as guest safety, customer service and top-line employee training.

“I look forward to attending the WWA Show each year because of the educational and networking opportunities that are provided,” said Ashlie Sharp, sales manager for Scott Enterprises/Splash Lagoon Indoor Waterpark Resort. “I am grateful to share experiences with other leaders in the industry to bring new ideas back to my team. This year we are working on implementing a new employee engagement campaign based on the things we learned at the show.”

Countries represented included Australia, Austria, the Bahamas, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Jamaica, Lebanon, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, the Philippines, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom, along with the United States of America.

The trade-show floor featured 100,000-square-feet of combined exhibit space with more than 225 companies showcasing new products and services in more than 380 booths. The following exhibitors were awarded for their booths:

* Best One-Booth Category: Big Dipper Dough, Traverse City, Michigan, U.S.A. * Best Two-Booth Category: Rain Drop Products, Ashland, Ohio, U.S.A.
* Best Four-Booth Category: SplashTacular, Paola, Kansas, U.S.A.
* Best Eight-Booth Category: ProSlide Technology, Ottawa, Ontario
* Canada Judges' Choice Category: Water Safety Products, Palm Bay, Florida, U.S.A.
* Best of Show: Neptune-Benson/Evoqua, Coventry, Rhode Island, U.S.A.

“The WWA Show has always been the intersection for all things waterpark-related,” said Aleatha Ezra, Director of Park Member Development, World Waterpark Association. “We were excited to see so many waterpark professionals from all over the world come together to learn and share challenges and successes in order to make the industry safer and more impactful in the lives of the guest which we serve."