The oceanside community of Long Beach, Calif., forms the perfect backdrop for a trade show. The place is hoppin’ — from its scenic downtown and waterfront marina to an impressive array of restaurants and attractions such as the Aquarium of the Pacific and the Queen Mary, a former ocean liner turned deluxe hotel and fine-dining destination.

So it’s no wonder the 34th Annual Western Pool & Spa Show will return to the convention center on March 15-17. More than 9,000 service technicians, builders and retailers are expected to converge on Hall C to view the booths and New Products Pavilion and, of course, to take seminars.

Exhibitor sign-ups and attendee pre-registration began well in advance of the event, and the number of educational offerings has increased over last year, reports Peter Haverlation, a longtime show organizer and current director of registration.

More good news: Visitors can count on seeing old favorites, such as the truck giveaway and Exhibitors Appreciation Party, and newer favorites, such as the putting contest. But the golf tournament, which was cancelled in 2009 due to the down economy, continues its hiatus.

WPSS promises some all-new twists, too. For example, this year attendees are urged to pre-register online at the WPSS Website; they’ll receive email confirmations, which they’ll bring to the show to expedite the issuance of badges. Haverlation says the change came about because more people wanted to be able to sign up online.

Registration can be done entirely at the convention center, but even then there’s a new development: You can self-register on a laptop computer, and WPSS volunteers will be on hand to help. “We used to mail out brochures with applications, but only 67 used them [last year], so we’ve stopped that,” Haverlation says. Still, he won’t rule out sending applications to those who prefer that method. Clearly, the WPSS organizers are trying to be accommodating.

Why the emphasis on registration? Because while admission to the show floor is free, visitors must register to receive show badges, which gain them admittance.

To pre-register, visit www.westernshow.com, or phone 800.787.7727. For local attractions, go to www.visitlongbeach.com.

Something for everyone

To say seminars are a big part of the Western Pool & Spa Show is putting it mildly. Once again, organizers have bumped up the number of courses, from 77 in 2011 to 86 in 2012. Plus, the lineup of seminars taught in Spanish has increased, from nine to 10 this year.

“Every year since day one, any water chemistry class has drawn crowds,” Haverlation observes. “Again this year, there will be beginning, intermediate and advanced chemistry classes, which we expect to be well-attended. And there will be discussions on salt [pools]. There have been lots of questions and interest in that.”

Other technical sessions will cover equipment such as heaters, pumps, motors, filters, controllers, cleaners, chlorine generators and ozonators. Then there are problem-solving courses on topics such as spot etching, stains, pool leaks — and how-to classes on troubleshooting electrical problems, pool painting, repairing and replacing pool lights, to name a few.

A healthy helping of business seminars will be served, too, such as “Litigation 101: Avoiding Claims and Court,” “Let’s Talk Business ‘n’ Tax Planning” — and even “Pool Tech 101: A Beginner’s Guide.” In keeping with the need for information about laws, regulations and codes, there are courses in that vein — “VGB Act: Make Your Pools Safe,” “Advanced Electrical & NEC Code Changes,” “Make Title 20/24 Work for You, and Be Legal” and “The ADA and Your Commercial Pools.” 

Once again, a block of classes will be taught in Spanish, to meet the needs of this growing segment of the service industry. Topics include heaters, basic chemistry, algaecide and sequestering agents, phosphates, hydraulics, controllers, business management/accounting and — new this year — salt chlorine generation.

Regardless of whether the seminar is in English or Spanish, participants are sure to soak up invaluable information from instructors and fellow students, Haverlation says. “That’s one of the big benefits,” he points out. “In a classroom, there’s audience participation, and you hear lots of ‘field experience.’”

Note: Three WPSS registration/seminar packages are available. Register on or before March 5 for the lowest rate at www.westernshow.com.

Try your luck

Now we come to what is, without a doubt, the most popular activity at the Western Pool & Spa Show: the truck giveaway.

For the 24th year, there will be a drawing for a pickup truck. “The odds of winning a truck are unbelievable,” Haverlation says.

No doubt, many service technicians will try their luck, for obvious reasons. Setting out on your route in a brand-new pickup truck that you won at a trade show? Nice!

The rules are the same as last year: Three names are drawn on Thursday, three on Friday and four on Saturday. Ten finalists will walk away with a variety of prizes, which could be anything from equipment such as a pool heater, pump, filter or cleaner to non-industry items such as a TV or microwave oven.

The final drawing for a Dodge RAM will occur on Saturday, March 17, around 5:30 p.m. You must be present to win, and WPSS officials will keep drawing tickets until the winner hears their name called and steps forward.

Back by Popular Demand

Golf enthusiasts have really taken to the putting contest, which made its debut last year in the WPSS exhibit hall. “It was wildly popular, so we’re going to do it again,” organizer Peter Haverlation says. “There was always a line of people wanting to play.”

The nine-hole putting area will be open during show hours, and the fee is $4 to play ($1 more than last year).

The contest took in more than $400 in 2011, with the split of 50/50, Haverlation notes: Half the proceeds went to the winner and half to SPEC,the legislative advocate for the California pool and spa industry in Sacramento.