Optimism and education were front and center at Carecraft’s 24th annual meeting.

“This was the biggest meeting yet, and it was probably our best,” said Greg Howard, CEO of the San Juan Capistrano, Calif.-based buying group. “We had some of the most positive feedback we’ve ever had.”

Held Feb. 22-25 at the Ritz-Carlton Las Vegas Resort, the event brought in 530 attendees from the United States and Canada.

“Don’t Just Survive — Thrive” was the theme, reflected in the opening presentation by Brian Van Bower followed by David Tisherman’s ideas on how to maxmize profits from existing pools. Both speakers are founding members of the Genesis 3 Design Group, which shared design and construction methods, and opened the floor for questions. They also offered a three-day post-meeting hydraulics class.

Carecraft members seemed to have a positive outlook despite the down economy and a record decrease in pool and spa sales.

“A year ago, consumers were kind of in a state of shock, and they were not even talking [to builders] about pools,” Howard said. “This year, there is a lot more interaction and discussion. It’s almost a normal environment for lead flow, but financing is not happening.”

Attendees let their hair down at two dance parties: a jeans-and-T-shirt “Rockin’ the Ritz” with a classic rock band, and the black-tie-optional “Puttin’ on The Ritz” with a “Rat Pack” impersonation group.

Also popular was the traditional motorcycle ride, this year to Hoover Dam. Golf and Las Vegas tours rounded out the activities.

Next year’s Carecraft meeting is scheduled for Feb. 21- 25 in Vail, Colo.