Connections 2004 Pulls Off a One-Two Punch

In an otherwise turbulent fall, the Connections Convention and Trade Show posted a rock-solid showing for the second consecutive year, with marked increases in attendance, exhibitors and excitement.

"It's absolutely been a great show for everybody," Rachel Adams, president of Indoor Air Management, said. "There's been a lot of traffic through, a lot of different exhibitors here that weren't here last year. I think it's been a good show, good attendance, and a lot of conferences that have been going on have a lot of people attending."

Held at the Riviera Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nov. 4-6, Connections 2004 lived up to its billing as the cleaning and restoration industry's largest and most powerful convention and trade show. More than 2,500 attendees flowed through the aisles and outdoor demonstration area of the Riviera's Royale Ballroom. The 220-plus exhibitor booths played host to industry mainstays Bridgepoint Systems, Prochem, Dri-Eaz, DuPont, Jon-Don, The Butler Corp., Vortex, HydraMaster, Steam Way, MasterBlend and many more.

"Seems to be great traffic coming through. There's a lot of interested prospects coming through," Rich Dye of 1-800 WATER DAMAGE (formerly CURE Water Damage), said. "Everybody's been really helpful, everything was here. Everything as far as the convention goes has been altogether awesome."

Building on a successful educational program in 2003, the Connections Committee developed a wide-ranging selection of seminars spread across the three-day event. Leaving theory to the theorists, the seminar lineup read like a well-oiled operational machine, with topics like "Rug Cleaning Nightmares and How To Avoid Them," "Drying Large Commercial Buildings," "Hard Surface Floor Problems That Cause You Cleaning Problems" sandwich in with "Upholstery Cleaning: The Challenges of Cleaning Different Fabrics and How to Stay Safe" and "Commercial Carpet Cleaning Work Problems and How to Avoid them," along with a myriad of other top-flight programs.

The lineup of speakers was even more impressive, boasting industry heavyweights like Tim Baker, Charles Cressy, Rachel Adams, Doyle Bloss, Dane Gregory and Claudia Lezell, not to mention renowned experts (and ICS Cleaning Specialist columnists) Jeff Bishop, Stan Hulin, and keynote speaker Steve Toburen.

"The number of people that are here from all over the U.S., and the quality of the people, it's been great," said Lisa Wagner of K. Blatchford's Oriental Rug Cleaning, Repair and Restoration. "I've been learning a lot just from the people I've sat next to at the meals between the sessions, I've learned a lot. That presentation by Steve Toburen was awesome. I've never seen so many people in a room at a convention ever."

It's business that drives the beast, however, and even the best-run events must endure a little criticism now and again. "We like the big format, how many people are here, the education, everything is great," Bridgepoint Systems President Rob Hanks said. "I think the only downside is that there are conflicting things going on during the trade show that may be drawing some people away. We understand that, but at the same time we'd like to see some ways of making the trade show more inviting, whether you have to have food in here, have your lunches in here or whatever, just to get more people in here."

But Connections is not all work and no play, especially not in a city like Las Vegas. Co-Chairs Dennis Iverson and Rosemary Schooley started the show off on the right note - no pun intended - mixing their opening remarks with a $100 giveaway and a drawing for a three-night stay at the Las Vegas Hilton during Connections 2005, Sept. 22-24. ICS hosted a social get-together Nov. 3 at the top of the Riviera's Monaco Towers.

Floor-to-ceiling windows provided a breathtaking view of the Las Vegas Strip as attendees mixed and mingled prior to the show's opening. And no one in attendance at the show's final banquet will - or can, for that matter - soon forget Barry Costa's memorable turn as Sonny to a quite-talented impersonator's Cher for a rousing birthday rendition of "I've Got You Babe."

Again tapping what proved a successful formula in 2003, the Connections Committee secured an outside demonstration area for truckmount and other equipment demonstrations. Twenty-five operations were on display in the pleasant November sunshine, leaving attendees with no excuse to not get their "hands-on" time with the tools of their trade.

"Last year was a great show, this year looks like it's been as equally good for us. Next year we look to attend it as well and possibly have a booth outside," The Butler Corp.'s Paul Joao said. "We have no complaints. It's enabled us to meet a lot of our current customer base and make a lot of new contacts, a lot of new friends. It's been a great thing that all these associations have merged together."

"It's been worthwhile, mostly because a lot of our clients are showing here, so it gives us a chance to rub elbows with them," Shawn Glover, national sales manager for Pumptec, said. "There's more of our clients here than there's been at a show in a long time."

Connections is growing in size and stature, as is obvious to anyone in attendance. But it was the depth of its commitment to the industry that truly left an impression for 2004.

During the show's opening remarks, Dan Bernazzani presented many with what was their first introduction to the Floor Covering Industry Foundation, or FCIF, a body that has for years helped those in need in the floor covering industry. Whether it be from illness, an accident or other unfortunate circumstance, the FCIF's confidential grants have been used for anything from wheelchairs to transplants to retrofitting a home and everything in between, giving back to those in the industry who have given so much of themselves to it.

Following the script of 2003, the best was saved for last. The closing evening's banquet and awards presentation played to a packed house. Live music - and the aforementioned duet - led up to the presentation of three prominent awards. D. Christopher Davis of the World Floor Covering Association received the Industry Connections Award, while Jim Pemberton was on hand to accept the Connections Kenway Mead Leadership award given to his father, Lee Pemberton.

Jim Pemberton
The final award of the evening, the ICS Cleaning Specialist Ralph Bloss Humanitarian Award, was presented to Randall Linton of Ontario, Canada. Conceived as a celebration of the life of industry legend Ralph Bloss, the award "honors members of the floor care industry whose compassion, self-sacrifice, leadership and creativity produce significant benefits for mankind."

D. Christopher Davis
Randall's daughter Elisa has a condition known as Sanfilippo Syndrome, a mucopolysaccharide disorder. MPS sufferers are missing an essential enzyme that breaks down a certain complex body sugar. As the sugar builds up in the bones, brain and other organs, normal development stops.

Doyle Bloss, Randall Linton and ICS publisher Evan Kessler
In May 1999, Randall and his wife Elisabeth were granted a charitable registration number and became an official Canadian charitable foundation. They went on to form the Sanfilippo Children's Research Foundation, the goal of which is to fund medical research to find a cure for Sanfilippo and its related neuro-genetic disorders. In almost five years, more than $1.2 million has been raised through the foundation and its volunteers, and 12 research projects have been initiated.

Connections once again showcased cleaning and restoration at its finest, providing an entertaining, educational platform for the industry's elite. And by no means will it be the last time: Already more than three-quarters booked, Connections 2005 will be held at the Las Vegas Hilton, Sept. 22-24.

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