Despite the threat of high winds, severe thunderstorms and dangerous tornados causing some delays with tent installations, Tent Expo 2024 kicked off on January 9 in Daytona, Fla. Over 550 attendees and exhibitors came from as far away as China, Poland and even the United Arab Emirates.

 “It was an incredible gathering of tent professionals,” says Nick Deninno, vice chairman of the Tent Rental Division (TRD) Steering Committee and owner of B&R Innovations. “Facing challenging weather while setting up the Tent Expo was tough, especially losing a day of setup. However, after the storm, everyone came together. Manufactures and even attendees pitched in, helping not only their own groups but also competitors. This cooperative spirit truly embodies the essence of ATA.”

On Tuesday evening, the “NextGen/OG” Happy Hour successfully brought together both newer entrants (NextGen) and long-time innovators (OG) in the tent industry. The two groups initially had their own social events and then regrouped to share stories, advice and lots of laughs late into the night.

On both Wednesday and Thursday, the TRD educational seminars provided engaging insights into the latest industry developments, complemented by hands-on training sessions like the Mobile Elevating Work Platform certification and TRD Boot Camp: Training for the tent professional. A noteworthy initiative this year was the collaboration between the TRD and the Common Ground Alliance (“811-Call before you dig”), introducing the “Call before you stake” campaign. This campaign aims to raise awareness about the importance of having underground utilities located and marked before installation begins to protect tent crews from serious injury and financial liability.

Wednesday featured the annual Wodetzki Luncheon, where Michael Tharpe, a retired 45-year veteran of the equipment and party rental industry, and Kathy Schaefer, IFM, who is the CEO of Glawe Tent & Awning, were honored with the Bruce W. Wodetzki Award, which is the tent rental industry’s most prestigious honor. The award is named for the founding member and first Chairman of TRD and recognizes professionals who continue his legacy of impacting the growth, direction and success of the tent rental industry. (To read more about this award and this year’s recipients, click here.)

The welcome reception on Wednesday night was graciously hosted by InTENTional Systems beneath the company’s striking black and clear top structure. Attendees were treated to delicious hors d’oeuvres and cocktails and seats around numerous campfires to watch the Soap Box Derby qualifying runs. Despite this being the first year of the derby, which was generously sponsored by Elevated Flooring Systems, 16 different teams built and raced their cars for a trophy and, more importantly, bragging rights. 

On Thursday there was another full day of education sessions as well as the always popular “Tour of the tents,” followed by the evening’s Party on the Pad hosted by Fred’s Tents and Canopies. Fred’s elevated the experience with its massive black and clear glass garden tent and a lively Jimmy Buffet-themed party that also served as the backdrop for the highly competitive Soapbox Derby Finals.

The results of the derby were as follows:

First place: Event Quip

Second place: “Team Tentske” a.k.a. L&A Tent Rentals Inc.

Third place: “Tent Mafia” a.k.a. Tara and Pat Moughan, Losberger DeBoer; Tommy Wilson, All Occasions Event Rental; George Mahaffey, Sunbelt Temporary Structures; Keith Eismann, Keder Solutions and Phil Heidt, CORT Party Rental

Best in show: “Rolling Thunder” a.k.a. Block & Roll

Going the distance: Event Quip

Better luck next time: Fred’s Tents

“Although the weather for the 2024 TRD Tent Expo at the legendary Daytona International Speedway was a challenge, the show went on to meet and exceed high expectations for this biennial tent and related products showcase,” says TRD Chairman Steve Belliveau of Anchor Industries. “The educational, networking and entertainment opportunities were all very well received, particularly the first of its kind at a tent show-TRD’s own and original Soap Box Derby, which became an instant and huge success.”

Be sure to mark your calendars for January 7-9, 2025, when the TRD Tent Conference will take place in Louisville, Ky. Don’t want to wait that long to receive industry-focused training and education? Check out the next TRD Boot Camp event scheduled for March 6-7, 2024, at Chattanooga Tent & Event Solutions in Chattanooga, Tenn.

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