1978 was a big year in American pop culture: The highest-grossing film was “Grease.” The Bee Gees song “How Deep is Your Love” and the “Laverne & Shirley” TV show were No. 1 hits. It was also the year the Western Pool & Spa Show debuted in Southern California.

And here we are, 39 years later. Peter Haverlation, who’s been with WPSS from the start. will be on hand again, helping things run smoothly at the Long Beach Convention Center March 9-11.

Like last year, rainstorms pounded Southern California in January, so that might encourage more service technicians, who form a large share of the attendees, to show up because it’s too wet to go out on the route, right? Not necessarily.

“We thought for years that if it rains, they will come,” Haverlation says. But he’s been keeping a log to see what kind of weather has the best effect on show attendance and has found that “neutral weather” — no wind or rain storms — works better.

Of course, the show will go on no matter what the weather conditions may be. Haverlation says organizers expect around 9,000 in attendance, and 200-plus exhibitors. They’ll be setting up booths in Hall C’s 78,000-square-foot exhibit space — and, in fact, so many exhibitors had registered by press time that it looked as if the putting green may not be expanded this year after all.

Regardless of its size, the putting green has always been a show favorite of attendees, many of whom travel great distances to WPSS. Last year, over 30 people came from Texas, according to Haverlation. Still others hailed from Wisconsin, New York, New Jersey and Florida. In all, folks from more than 30 states registered in 2016 and, he says, there were even some from other countries, such as Australia. “Until they retired, people from a New Zealand company came every other year,” Haverlation recalls. “I asked them why and they said they liked our emphasis on education, including hands-on education.”

Speaking of classes, the 2017 lineup is impressive, with a number of new sessions on tap.

Meanwhile, returning show favorites include the hourly prize giveaways, which lead up to the truck giveaway on the final day. And the Product Showcase will feature merchandise that’s new, innovative or energy-saving.

Admission to the exhibit hall is free, but visitors must register to get show badges, which gain them admittance. Advance registration online is encouraged. It’s possible to register in person at the center, but a nominal $5 fee will be charged.

To pre-register for the show and to get information about seminar fees, visit westernshow.com. For city attractions, go to visitlongbeach.com.

Seminar smarts

It’s amazing how many seminar topics hold the potential to pack the classrooms, Peter Haverlation says. Sometimes the cause can be as simple as a problem that so many people are having, it becomes a standing-room-only situation.

Certainly, with 81 classes this year, 40 of which are new, it’s a sure bet there will be something for everyone, whether they’re experiencing problems or simply seeking general knowledge. Technical, business, Spanish-language and special sessions — it’s all there.

Even a sampling of technical classes turns up quite a variety: water chemistry, hydraulics for service professionals, electrical bonding and grounding, pool/spa problems for beginners, waterfeature installation, and the like. This year’s new technical sessions cover concrete surfaces, toolboxes, how to provide healthy water, and more.

On the business side, Haverlation says there’s one on billing and collections that “probably should be mandatory.” Being knowledgeable about collections, he says, “makes you more professional and keeps your business going.” Other business topics will include how to stand out online; how to make your business successful; and how to become a millionaire pool technician.

Special sessions on tap include “Changes to NEC for 2017” on Friday and “The State of Water in California: How Conservation Affects the Pool Industry” on Saturday.

When it comes to the Spanish-language curriculum, the selection is larger than last year — again. “We’re always trying to expand it,” Haverlation says. “They’re a big part of the industry, so we have Spanish-language sessions all three days.”

Indeed, he acknowledges that WPSS has led the way in regard to such seminars. “The way we look at it, if our goal is to make the industry better, offering this will [help]. We’ve been offering classes in Spanish for more than 10 years now.”

The 13 Spanish-language seminars for 2017 cover these topics: gas heater installation/repair; algae-free pools; variable-speed pumps; and business management on Thursday. On Friday, the list includes heater troubleshooting; QuickBooks; gas heaters; Jandy Pro Series controls; and a Certified Aquatic Energy Installer course. The Saturday lineup includes hydraulics for service pros; basic chemistry; advanced chemistry; and contractor licenses.

Considering the many seminar choices, Haverlation concludes, “I always say, the biggest gift you get [from the show] is getting smarter.”

Truck mania

There’s no denying it: The truck giveaway is hugely popular, as the crowds gathered to witness the big reveal will attest. This year, a brand-new Dodge 1500 pickup will go to the lucky winner.

Here’s how that magical moment will arrive: Three names are drawn on Thursday and again on Friday, and four names on Saturday. The 10 finalists win prizes from manufacturers. The final drawing occurs on Saturday, between 5 and 5:30 p.m. Video screens in the truck giveaway area enable those who aren’t standing in the front to see what’s happening.

You must be present to win, and WPSS officials will keep drawing tickets until the winner hears their name called and comes forward.

Go, golfers

For the sixth year, WPSS will be setting up a putting green on the show floor. Golfers are welcome to try their hand at 9 holes, and the nominal admission fee encourages many to come back again and again to try to better their scores.

The proceeds are split 50/50 between the winner and the California Pool & Spa Association.