DALLAS - The American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA) celebrated a fantastic year at its 35th Annual Convention and Exhibition. Over 1,250 fire sprinkler contractors, manufacturers, suppliers, architects, Authorities Having Jurisdiction, and other industry professionals flocked to Nashville September 14-17, the largest number to attend an AFSA convention in nearly 10 years. One other important milestone was also achieved: the highest number of contractors and contractor companies ever to attend an AFSA convention were present in Nashville with 575 contractors representing 200 contractor companies, up from 141 companies in 2015.
In addition to attending nearly 30 seminars, attendees explored AFSA's exhibition, filling the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center's Ryman Hall to the brim with booths featuring the products and services of 118 companies.
With dozens of educational seminars to choose from, convention attendees faced some tough decisions on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday morning. For the 24th straight year, AFSA offered local AHJs a free plan review seminar, followed by a workshop on residential sprinkler ordinances and a chance to explore the industry's largest exhibition.
The convention began with a bang on Wednesday with the hugely popular annual golf tournament, this year held at the Gaylord Springs Golf Links. There were 125 participants in the tournament, and prizes were awarded to the teams that took first place, second place and third place, as well as to the man and woman with the longest drive, the straightest drive, and the closest to the pin.
Thursday was a day of technical seminars followed by a NextGen Initiative reception for members of the fire sprinkler industry under 40 who are interested in leadership roles and networking with peers and mentors. The reception was an overwhelming success, with nearly 150 individuals in attendance. AFSA's inaugural Young Professional of the Year award was bestowed upon Meaghen Wills of Anchor Fire Protection in Perkiomenville, Pennsylvania. Wills received the honor for her work on the board of the AFSA Mid-Atlantic Chapter, and for her tireless work cultivating and leading the NextGen Initiative.
Friday offered more technical and management-related educational seminars followed by the general session, where attendees celebrated 35 years of saving lives and protecting property. AFSA Chairman of the Board Michael F. Meehan presented the 2016 Henry S. Parmelee Award to AFSA President Steve A. Muncy, CAE, who has dedicated nearly 30 years of his life to fire protection and AFSA. Also during the general session, Fire Sprinkler Advocate of the Year Ed Altizer, former State Fire Marshal of Virginia, for his efforts to make the state of Virginia safer by advocating for fire sprinklers throughout his career.
On Saturday, the seminars and tours continued, and in the early afternoon exhibits opened to great success. 458 exhibitors from 118 exhibiting companies took over the hall, and attendees were treated to the cream of the fire sprinkler crop, learning about new products and networking with fellow industry professionals. During the afternoon exhibition, the nation's top seven fire sprinkler fitter apprentices, from the 140 apprentices who entered this year's contest, competed in AFSA's National Apprentice Competition installing mini-sprinkler systems before a packed crowd. That evening, the annual Awards Party took place at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Guests enjoyed dinner and a show, entertained throughout the evening by the Johnny Cash impersonator and band who performed under the soaring 40-foot glass windows overlooking downtown Nashville.
The highlight of the evening was the announcement of apprentice competition winners: $5,000 First Place, Jonathan Offord, Commonwealth Fire Protection in Leola, Pennsylvania; $3,000 Second Place, Logan Moser, Mutual Sprinklers in Tyler, Texas.; $2,000 Third Place, Joseph Mientkiewicz, SimplexGrinnell in Rochester, New York. Honorable mentions and $1,000 prizes were awarded to: Thomas Adams, J.G. Tate Fire Protection Systems, Poway, California; John Cowger, Rapid Fire Protection, Inc., Rapid City, South Dakota; Gregory Schneider, Superior Fire Protection, Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Donald Stone, Western Fire Protection, Inc., Poway, California. Competition winners also received a commemorative plaque, cash prizes and tools.
Plans for AFSA's 2017 Convention in Las Vegas are already in the works. AFSA's 36th Annual Convention & Exhibition will be held September 24-27 at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. For more information on this or next year's conventions, visit firesprinkler.org/convention.
To see photos of the event, visit the AFSA's Flickr page.