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    Credit: NICK ORABOVIC

Unseasonably mild temperatures and noticeable optimism for the coming year made for a well-received Atlantic City Pool and Spa Show.

The annual conference and expo, held Jan. 24-26 at the Atlantic City Convention Center and organized by the Northeast Spa & Pool Association, drew more than 11,100 attendees, including exhibitor staff, topping last year’s figures; participation in the educational seminars approached pre-recession levels as well.

“I thought the show was fabulous,” said Bob Blanda, show chairman and president of Mill Bergen Pool Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. “It just seems like everything clicked. The exhibitors were very happy and buzzing with the feeling that leads were good. People were doing business … and we had perfect weather.”

As expected, the first two days saw heavy foot traffic, with crowds tapering off somewhat on the last. Still, spirits were high throughout.

“We love this show,” said Joan Welden, vice president and co-owner of exhibitor Swim N Save Worldwide, based in South Pasadena, Fla. “We get excited buyers, not lookers.”

According to show organizers, 420 firms displayed products this year, down 3.3 percent from last year’s 434, but better than 2010, when 403 exhibited.

The educational program also grew, with 5,229 seats filled compared with last year’s seminar attendance of about 4,700. Of the 73 courses offered, 15 had more than 100 students, with four exceeding 200.

“Normally, you have a handful over 100, and maybe one or two over 200,” said Paulette Pitrak, NESPA’s deputy executive director.

Reflecting the industry’s swing toward service, maintenance and repair, organizers devoted a significant portion of the curriculum — 17 classes — to chemistry topics. Manufacturer-led courses on repair and maintenance of branded heaters also fared well, she added.

“It was very well done,” said Joe Matassino, president of Olympic Pool Service in Wilmington, Del., of a seminar on heaters. “The way [the instructor] went about teaching it, the sequence from installation to troubleshooting, was easy to follow.”

For the second straight year, classes overlapped into the exhibit schedule by 45 minutes, which curbed the visually impressive opening rush that traditionally follows the ribbon-cutting, but also made the crowds more manageable for exhibitors.