The National Plasterers Council kicked off its 20th anniversary celebration and conference with a party that featured legendary entertainers Celine Dion, Elton John and Charlie Daniels.

OK, they were good impersonators.

Regardless, the opening reception hosted by 3M set the tone for the four-day event held Feb. 10-13 at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, Nev.

“We were concerned about attendance in light of the current economy,” said Mitch Brooks, executive director of the NPC. “But we came very close to hitting our numbers from last year. All the participants and exhibitors I spoke to were very happy.”

Attendance reached 402, down 40 from the 2008 conference, and the number of exhibitors (61) dipped slightly from last year’s total of 74, according to NPC officials. Show sponsorships brought in $70,000, down approximately $30,000 from what was raised in 2008.

However, two days of product and service auctions fetched upwards of $100,000, easily on par with the revenue of the previous year. “All in all, financially it was a success,” Brooks said.

Among the conference highlights was a standing-room-only seminar on the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act and ANSI-7, led by Dan Johnson, owner of Swim Inc. in Sarasota, Fla.

Johnson, a member of the ANSI-7 standards writing committee, gave a comprehensive presentation covering everything from flow rates and sump construction to compliance and protection from liability.

“The CPSC was charged with enforcement, but it doesn’t have a police force,” Johnson told the crowd. “They expect states to be co-enforcers of the law. But states are saying, ‘If we find something, we’ll take action.’ They’re not out there looking for problems.”

Also notable was the keynote presentation by PoolCorp CEO Manuel J. Perez de la Mesa. Among other topics, he addressed the opportunities present in a sluggish economy.

“We were very lucky to have him there,” Brooks said. “It was the icing on the cake as far as our program was concerned.”

Looking ahead, Brooks identified several objectives for the remainder of 2009, including continued expansion of the National Pool Industry Research Center at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, Calif.; finalizing the NPC’s accreditation program; updating the group’s technical manual; and enhancing its Web site.