Celebrating its silver anniversary, the Atlantic City (N.J.) Pool & Spa Show continued a tradition of success with a record-breaking event.

In years past, the show organizers often have had to contend with difficult weather conditions. But this time, clear skies and sunshine encouraged droves to head for the Atlantic City Convention Center, where many exhibitors reported strong sales and lead generation.

“It’s the best year since we’ve been exhibiting here,” said Don Elkington, CEO of Coast Spas in Langley, British Columbia, Canada. “We’ve seen the best quality of dealers coming into our booth, gotten great leads and are making a lot of sales. Our reps and customers are really pulling the trigger.”

Held Jan. 24-26, the 25th Annual Atlantic City Pool & Spa Show attracted 9,478 non-exhibiting attendees, surpassing the all-time attendance of 8,864 in 2003. It’s a 12 percent increase from last year’s event, which experienced shipping delays due to heavy snowstorms that swept across the East.

“The Northeast is a huge marketplace for manufacturers, and a lot of success here at the show in the past has depended on the weather,” said Stephen Shulman, creative director at SmartPool Inc. of Lakewood, N.J. “It’s very unpredictable. But the weather has been great this year and really improved turnouts.”

Trish McCormick, show manager at the Northeast Spa & Pool Association, which sponsors the event, agreed: “Traditionally, we’ve had issues with weather, having the show in January, because many attendees drive in from Philadelphia, New York or Washington, D.C. — all less than three hours away. For folks who are teetering on coming, if they wake up and it’s a beautiful day, more will make it out. That certainly helps.”

With 1,289 booths, 462 exhibiting companies, and 128,900 square feet of exhibitor space, organizers pulled off the biggest event in the show’s history.

For some first-time exhibitors, the show brought welcome opportunities in a new market. “I’ve never exhibited at a pool and spa show; I usually do furniture and accessory shows,” said Sandy McNair, co-owner of Sandy Beaches Furniture in Salem, N.C. “One of my biggest customers this past year was a pool and spa [retailer] up north, and he said I needed to be here. It’s been phenomenal for us. Based on our experience, we’ll probably be back next year, and we’re looking to do other pool and spa shows.”

The educational program experienced a surge this year, drawing approximately 5,500 people to its 75 technical and business seminars. Highlights included “Advanced Water Chemistry,” “Pressure Testing the Right Way” and “Water in the Whole: Installing Dewatering Systems” — with roughly 200 students in each. The last two sessions were so overbooked, the classes had to be moved to accommodate the crowds.

Attendees also were excited about many of the new products and trends they found on the show floor. “This year, we’re seeing a lot more high-end spas and aboveground pools, as well as hot-ticket leisure accessories like grills and furniture,” said John Melia, owner of Benchmark Pool, Spa and Patio in Bayville, N.J. “They come up with new technology every year, and it’s hard to keep up with everything. That’s one of the reasons it’s important for me to be here.”

“Everyone is trying to stay competitive with each other, which drives the business forward,” added Harold “Tip” Tipton, president of Maryland Pools Inc., a Pool & Spa News Top Builder in Columbia, Md. “One guy’s always trying to outdo the other, and you get a glimpse of where the market might be headed at this show.”

The 2007 show will return to the Atlantic City Convention Center on Jan. 23-25.