This year, the American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA) celebrated many new records, realizing record attendance and participation at its 26th Annual Convention and Exhibition. In fact, a record-breaking 1,360 attendees flocked to Phoenix September 26-30, up six percent from last year.
In addition to attending nearly 30 seminars, the nearly 1,400 fire sprinkler contractors, manufacturers, suppliers, architects, Authorities Having Jurisdiction, and other industry professionals in attendance explored AFSA’s exhibition, also breaking records filling the JW Marriott Desert Ridge’s Grand Canyon Ballroom to the brim with 157 booths featuring the products and services of 123 companies. On top of the outstanding exhibitor showing, attendance shined overall with representatives from a record 177 contractor companies also attending the educational seminars, compared to 147 contractor companies in 2006.
With dozens of educational seminars to choose from, convention attendees faced some tough decisions on Thursday, Friday, and for the first time, Saturday morning. For the 15th straight year, AFSA offered local AHJs a free plan review seminar, followed by a workshop on residential sprinkler ordinances and a chance to explore the industry’s largest exhibition.
Thursday’s seminars were followed by the opening general session, emceed by comedian and humorist Jon Stetson. In a taped message, R.I. Congressman Jim Langevin (D) thanked the association for naming him its Fire Sprinkler Advocate of the Year for his efforts to pass legislation aimed at making fire sprinklers more accessible to businesses. Also during the general session, AFSA Chairman of the Board Manning Strickland, Strickland Fire Protection, Inc., College Park, Md., presented the 2007 Henry S. Parmelee Award to Tom Groos, chairman of Viking Group, Grand Rapids, Mich. Later that evening, attendees packed the aisles of the AFSA Exhibit Hall to see the newest fire sprinkler industry products and services during the Chairman’s Reception.
Friday offered more technical and management-related educational seminars followed by an afternoon of exhibits. During the afternoon exhibition, the nation’s top seven fire sprinkler fitter apprentices, from a record 185 apprentices who entered this year’s contest, competed in AFSA’s National Apprentice Competition installing mini-sprinkler systems before a packed crowd. Friday evening came to a conclusion with tropical-shirt garbed guests ‘hanging’ poolside at the JW Marriott’s Lazy River Friday evening. Topped off with great food, drinks, and entertainment, this “Key West meets the Southwest” themed event was a crowd pleaser.
While some attendees took advantage of Saturday morning’s technical seminars, other participated in AFSA’s annual Golf Tournament at the Wildfire Golf Club’s Faldo Championship Course. Closing the 2007 convention was Saturday’s Route 66 Street Party and Awards Ceremony. The highlight of the evening was the announcement of apprentice competition winners: $3,000 First Place, Chase McLane – Rapid Fire Protection Inc., Rapid City, S.D.; $2,000 Second Place, Ray Byrd, Jr. – Affordable Fire Protection, Inc., Norcross, Ga.; $1,000 Third Place, James C. Durand, Jr. – HFP Fire Sprinkler, Inc., Westfield, Mass. Honorable mentions were: Chris Burns – Eckert Fire Protection Systems Inc., Cincinnati, Ohio; Mathew Mcdaniel – R.C. Shaw Sprinkler Co., Inc., Worcester, Mass.; Todd McDonough – DeBest Fire Protection, Boise, Idaho; and Eric Rieve – Firestop, Inc., Bethel, Conn.
Plans for AFSA’s 2008 Convention in Washington, D.C. are already in the works. AFSA’s 27th Annual Convention and Exhibit will be held October 15-19 at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C. For more information on this or next year’s conventions, visit the convention area of the AFSA Web site, http://www.firesprinkler.org.