• Photo courtesy Long Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau
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If hanging out with friends and colleagues in a sun-drenched city by the sea sounds appealing, you’ll want to attend the Western Pool & Spa Show in Long Beach, Calif., this month.

The 33rd Annual WPSS comes to the city’s convention center March 31 to April 2. For pool service technicians, builders and retailers, it’s a time to soak up trade tips and check out the latest products.

“We’re anticipating a good turnout,” says Peter Haverlation, longtime show organizer and currently director of registration. He says there are always industry pros traveling from afar such as a contingent from Hawaii that closes its stores and heads for WPSS each year.

“Personally, I think the recovering economy has benefited us,” Haverlation continues. “I know builders are still suffering, but other aspects of the industry are coming around. I’m very encouraged.”

With diverse displays in the exhibit hall, there’s “always something new to pique people’s interest,” Haverlation says, pointing to energy-saving lights and innovations in software as examples. Additionally, the New Products Pavilion, which was “wildly successful” last year, is returning to showcase 30 items in 2011.

As for activities, WPSS is more streamlined this year. Acknowledging the fact that many folks are still dealing with economic hardships, organizers decided to shelve the design awards and put the golf tournament on hold for the third consecutive year. Nevertheless, golf lovers can have fun at the brand-new putting area planned for the exhibit hall throughout the show’s run. Plus, two other show staples — the truck giveaway and the Exhibitors Appreciation Party — are a go.

Admission to WPSS is free, but registration is required. For more show details, visit westernshow.com. For local attractions, go to visitlongbeach.com.

Head for the Classroom

“We’re trying to offer a pretty broad spectrum of subjects this year ... a few classes that are a little bit new or different, a few more business and advanced classes,” WPSS organizer Peter Haverlation says. It adds up to a total of 77 seminars on technical and business topics, plus a two-day CPO class, and IPSSA water chemistry prep course and test.

Techs new to the service industry have been requesting basic information, so organizers responded with a seminar titled “The Psychology of Good Pool Business Practices” on Thursday, 4-5:45 p.m. Other classes for the business-minded include collections, accounting, business management, and finding and retaining employees.

One of the highest-attended courses in the past covered “QuickBook” business software, according to Haverlation. So, for those wanting to set up their own businesses using that software, there will be two Friday sessions, “QuickBook,” Part 1 (11 a.m.-12:45 p.m.) and Part 2, 1-2:45 p.m.

Meanwhile, the technical lineup runs the gamut, from seminars on the basics of water chemistry, plumbing, electricity and equipment repair — to variable-speed pumps, salt chlorination, RWIs, acid-washing techniques and more.

For those wanting to stay abreast of laws and regulations, there’s the “VGB Act: Make Your Pools Safe,” sponsored by CPSC and led by APSP (Friday, 8-10:45 a.m.). Or check out “Upcoming Legislation,” led by SPEC (Friday, 8-9:45 a.m.), or “Advanced Electrical and NEC Code Changes” (Sat., 12-1:45 p.m.).

Once again, nine classes in Spanish will be offered at WPSS. Spanish-speaking techs represent a growing industry segment, Haverlation says, as witnessed by several standing-room-only classes in Spanish last year.

Sessions will be conducted in Spanish on the following topics: heater repair; algaecide and sequestering agents; business management; phosphates; hydraulics; basic chemistry; and controllers.

That Magical Moment

Now in its 23rd year, the WPSS truck giveaway is so popular, there would probably be a riot if it was discontinued. It’s easy to see why.

Techs must travel miles every day servicing pools on their routes, and a pickup truck is an essential tool of the trade. When all you have to do is participate in the daily drawings for a chance at the grand prize of a free truck, who wouldn’t give it a try?

Three names are drawn on Thursday, three on Friday and four on Saturday. Ten finalists will walk away with a variety of prizes, which in the past have ranged from pool equipment and chemicals to TVs and microwave ovens.

The final drawing for a Dodge Dakota will occur Saturday, April 2, around 5:30 p.m. You must be present to win, and WPSS officials will keep drawing tickets until that magical moment when the winner hears their name called.

Golf Fun

Just because the WPSS golf tournament is on hiatus this year doesn’t mean golf enthusiasts won’t be able to get a few swings in while enjoying the show.

At press time, show organizers were still working on the details, but we can say there will be a putting area in the exhibit hall, with nine holes and maybe even miniature trees and sand traps. It will be open during show hours and prizes offered, according to Peter Haverlation.

A small fee ($5 or less) will be charged, with half the monies collected going to the winner and half to SPEC, the legislative advocate for the California pool and spa industry in Sacramento.