AFSA Convention in Phoenix Rises Above Expectations
Reaching far beyond expectations, the American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA) held its 34th Annual Convention & Exhibition in Phoenix centered around the theme of “AFSA in Phoenix: Rising to Excellence,” and that it did.
This year, AFSA celebrated a year that has been especially rich in realizing and initializing new ideas. Nearly 1,100 attendees assembled in Phoenix for the industry’s largest tradeshow October 10-13 at the J.W. Marriott Desert Ridge Resort and Spa in Phoenix. Featuring an almost non-stop slate of seminars, roundtable discussions, professional panel discussions, addresses by key industry leaders, networking sessions and social events, this annual meeting of the minds served as a forum for the sharing of pertinent information and enhanced the development of fire sprinkler businesses.
Hundreds Flock to AFSA Show
During its 34 years, AFSA has established itself as the leading destination to collect information about the industry, including the events unfolding within it. Swapping business cards, attending seminars, and comparing new ideas and successful business practices, industry professionals and guests gathered to see 147 booths featuring the products and services of 113 companies. On top of the outstanding exhibitor showing, attendance shined overall with representatives from 141 contractor companies also attending the 34 educational seminars.
Deemed one of the best in the nation – based on the quality of the national panelists and speakers, AFSA convention’s seminar schedule once again included many great presentations and panel discussions. Over the three days, convention attendees had the opportunity to select from business and technical seminars.
Across a vast bed of manicured cacti, AFSA’s Annual Golf Tournament got underway Saturday afternoon at the J.W. Marriott Wildfire Golf Club’s Faldo Championship Course. This year’s competition was extremely close with only a couple strokes separating the top teams. First place team included: Robert Cathcart, Chris Crouch, Robert Head, and Dennis Sekermestrovich. The team consisting of Andrew Medovich, Jack Medovich, Phil Schechinger, and Karl Weigand took second place honors, and Ronald Caplinger, Paul Jarvis, Mike Jorgensen, and Chris Sharp finished third. The prize for longest drive went to Dillon Gray for the men and June Briceno for the women, and closest to the pin was awarded to Devin Doyle for the men and Linda Biernacki for the women.
Monday recognized the year’s top achievers, provided business management ideas, educational seminars, and several announcements. Following a morning of educational seminars, a record crowd congregated at the opening general session, emceed by cardiac comedian Frank King. Retired Aspen, Colorado Fire Marshal Ed Van Walraven thanked the association for naming him its Fire Sprinkler Advocate of the Year. Also during the general session, AFSA Chairman of the Board Joseph A. Heinrich, Bamford Fire Sprinkler Co., Salina, Kansas, presented the 2015 Henry S. Parmelee Award to George Wagner, retired president of Worsham Sprinkler Co. in Mechanicsville, Virginia and current executive director of the AFSA Virginia Chapter.
Marking the official opening of the industry’s largest exhibition was Monday’s Chairman’s Reception. The three-hour event was a wonderful opportunity for attendees to see – and order – the industry’s latest technology, and acted as a preview for Tuesday afternoon’s exhibi- tion showcasing AFSA’s National Apprentice Competition.
Tuesday offered more opportunities to attend valuable educational seminars – including a free day of education for local Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs), followed by a live side-by-side sprinkler burn demonstration in the parking lot of the J.W. Marriott. With the assistance of the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition and Phoenix and Scottsdale Fire Departments, two rooms were constructed: one with a fire sprinkler system and the other without, and then, both rooms were lit on fire in front of an estimated crowd of roughly 300. The event served as a powerful reminder of life-saving benefits of fire sprinklers.
The afternoon continued with exhibits and the four-hour practical portion of AFSA’s National Apprentice Competition. As part of the competition, apprentices spent the morning taking a written examination. Then before the packed exhibit hall crowd, the seven national finalists each installed a mini-sprinkler system comprised of steel and CPVC piping. The systems were pressure-tested and competitors were graded on accuracy, craftsmanship and safety in addition to their written test score in order to determine the winner.
As the sun set over the McDowell mountains Tuesday evening, attendees found themselves beneath an Arizona sunset surrounded by towering century-old Saguaro cacti illuminated into the night in a spectacular array of color as they eagerly awaited the announcement of the AFSA National Apprentice Competition. A highlight of the evening was the announcement of apprentice competition winners: $5,000 for First Place Jared Sutliff, Cen-Cal Fire Systems, Lodi, California; $3,000 for Second Place Chad Sims, Eckert Fire Protection Systems, Cincinnati, Ohio; and $2,000 for Third Place Faron Steele, Midwestern Mechanical, Inc., Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Honorable mentions were John Cowger, Rapid Fire Protection, Inc., Rapid City, South Dakota; Donald Stone, Western Fire Protection, Inc., Poway, California; Jared Stroupe, SimplexGrinnell, LP, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania; and Alan Walden, SimplexGrinnell, LP, North Charleston, South Carolina.
For photos from the 2015 convention in Phoenix, visit the AFSA Flickr photo page at flickr.com/afsa.
See You in Nashville!
AFSA’s annual convention is a unique opportunity. It is a chance to not only be exposed to some of the greatest minds in the industry, but to build relationships with some of the greatest people in fire protection.
AFSA is truly a community that you want to be a part of. If you’ve never been to an AFSA convention, do not hesitate to show up next year. The AFSA convention presents a wide range of professional enrichment opportunities that are offered at each and every convention.
Plans for AFSA’s 2016 convention are already in the works, and you won’t want to miss it. AFSA’s 35th Annual Convention & Exhibition will be held September 14-17 at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee.
For more information on next year’s convention, visit the convention area of the AFSA website, firesprinkler.org and we’ll see you next year in Nashville!