Keynotes, workshops help water feature industry leaders learn winning strategies they can employ next year
Hundreds of distributors, contractors, and retailers from around the world recently convened in St. Charles, Ill., for education, networking, and fun at the industry’s premier water gardening event, Pondemonium 2011. This year’s theme was “Building the Future Together,” and the event offered workshops and hands-on training sessions designed to instruct attendees about effective, economical ways to grow their business.
The event kicked off with an advanced Build-a-Pond training session held at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, the third water feature installed at this historic landmark by Aquascape and its network of Certified Aquascape Contractors. The new 30-foot x 15-foot pond includes a 1,500-gallon sustainable reservoir, a 50-foot stream and wetlands area with aquatic planting bed. This newest water feature will educate visitors about the importance of native habitats and how everyone can make a positive impact on our environment. Capping the evening was a waterfall ribbon-cutting ceremony with dinner at the Shedd Aquarium’s outside terrace.
Friday’s classroom sessions started with keynote presentations from Greg Wittstock, CEO and Founder of Aquascape, Inc. (pictured above) and John Stanley, retail industry expert. Wittstock's presentation, “Building the Future Together,” focused on plugging your business into the philosophies and ideologies with water features that appeal to today’s new consumer, while Stanley’s presentation, “Water: Make it Your Future to Have a Future,” highlighted what’s being done to make water features vogue and how to leverage the past to build your business today and for the future.
New to Pondemonium this year were “Cup of Coffee” roundtable discussions, led by a variety of water feature contractors and retailers on topics ranging from “Making Home Shows Profitable” to “Creative Construction Projects” to “Selling Your Passion” and more. Attendees could choose from over 60 discussions in which to participate before heading into classroom workshops on Friday and Saturday.
Networking events were offered throughout Pondemonium and included a trip to Ball Horticultural Company for dinner and private tour of the expansive gardens. In addition, a coffee bar and beer garden at Aqualand, corporate headquarters of Aquascape, afforded opportunities for socializing and idea-swapping. A standard Build-a-Pond, pond tour, awards ceremony and annual Blow-Out Bash rounded out the agenda for 2011.
During the awards ceremony, Aquascape recognized customers who displayed one or more of the company’s core values of Character, Team, Win-4, and Fun. In addition, three recipients were chosen for special awards never before offered:
• Tony Sargeant of Aquatic Creations in Grantville, Ga., was awarded 2011 Businessman of the Year by Greg Wittstock.
• Chip and Sue DuBois of Chips Landscaping in Greenfield Center, N.Y., were awarded 2011 Conservation/Sustainability Award by Ed Beaulieu, chief sustainability officer for Aquascape, Inc.
• BJ Linger of BJL Aquascapes in Oceanport, N.J. was awarded Artist of the Year/Workmanship Award by Brian Helfrich, construction manager for Aquascape, Inc.