More than 1,300 seminar seats were filled at this year's Carolinas Golf Course Superintendents Association's annual Conference and Trade Show. The final tally of 1,356 participants in education seminars at the conference held Nov. 14-16 in Myrtle Beach, was just 10 seats shy of the all-time high set in 2019.
Although the event remains strong, association officials admit there is evidence that the future of in-person events is changing, and associations that host them must seek ways to remain relevant to their audience.
"Across the board, the message was very positive leaving the beach," Carolinas GCSA executive director Tim Kreger said. "But times are definitely changing, and in different ways for different elements of the industry. We must continually find ways to address those changes."
The number of exhibiting companies this year of 186, was down six from last year and 28 below the record of 214 set in 2018. Kreger said some of that decline was due to in part to industry consolidation and the fact that several distributors granted exhibit space to allied companies, where previously those companies purchased stand-alone space. Another factor he cites was inflation which had caused a spike in the cost of exhibiting, although booth pricing was unchanged from 2021.
"And there is no doubt the traditional trade show model has been squeezed by the Internet and the array of electronic communication options available today," Kreger said. "If a customer wants to know what a company has to offer, they can find out in seconds no matter where they are. But our show remains popular and viable because of the human element. There is nowhere else in the southeast where companies can get the opportunity to get face-to-face with so many customers and potential clients. And our members show they appreciate that by turning up year after year."
All that said, Kreger is optimistic about the show's future.
"Maybe it's just me getting older, but it seemed like there were more young faces on the trade show floor this year," he said. "For a generation that is supposed to be addicted to doing everything virtually, I think that is a great sign for them and the future of the show."
Nearly 1,000 people - excluding vendors – attended the first Carolinas Night celebration held in conjunction with the trade show. The move to bring the annual celebration onto the trade show floor aimed to increase both the number of people and the time they spent at the trade show.
"Overall, folks on the trade show floor seemed very excited and happy with the changes," Kreger said. "And that includes superintendents and exhibitors. People were certainly positive, and I even had one exhibitor ask who they needed to thank for the idea."
In one of the highlights of the week, Danny Allen, from Aero Short Course in Myrtle Beach received the Distinguished Service Award. The award caps an almost 50-year career including nearly 40 at Camden Country Club in Camden, South Carolina, a term as association president and two separate stints on the board of directors. The award was presented by his brother, Randy, himself a past-president and Distinguished Service Award winner.
Other highlights from this year's Conference and Show include:
> Chuck Connolly, from Smithfields Country Club in Easley, South Carolina became the association's 49th president. Connolly becomes director of golf maintenance at Savannah Lakes Village in McCormick, South Carolina next month;
> Matt Smith, from Wilmington Golf Course in Wilmington, North Carolina was elected to the board of directors;
> Riley Boyette, from Carolina Country Club in Raleigh, North Carolina won his fourth Carolinas GCSA golf championship, presented by Toro and Smith Turf and Irrigation, as one of nearly 340 golfers who teed it up across three courses;
> Charles Davis, from Inland Greens in Wilmington, North Carolina won the $3,000 grand prize in the 27-Hole Challenge, with more than $10,000 in cash and prizes, presented by John Deere Golf, Greenville Turf and Tractor and Revels Turf and Tractor;
> Horry Georgetown Technical College won the Student Turf Bowl presented by Precision Laboratories, completing a hat-trick of wins that started in 2019. There was no conference in 2020 because of the pandemic;
> Past-president Adam Charles, from The Preserve at Verdae in Greenville, South Carolina won his fourth sporting clay championship, presented by Bayer and Carolina Fresh Farms;
> Erin Miller, from TPC Piper Glen in Charlotte, North Carolina became the first woman to win the Turf Equipment Technician of the Year Award presented by Turf Equipment Technician's Association of the Carolinas.