Hundreds of tent and rental professionals gathered in Daytona Beach, Fla., last week for the IFAI Tent Expo.
Members of the Tent Rental Division and other industry professionals took the opportunity to meet in person for the first time in two years, driving near-record attendance at this year’s event.
Tent Expo offers a chance to connect in-person that can’t be replicated by virtual events, said Josh Kohn, CEO and co-founder, SOHO Event Rentals, Fairhope, Ala.
“It’s so good, the relationships, the networking, getting to meet face to face with people, it really builds those relationships,” he said. “To be here on the floor with the tents and manufacturers, to be able to ask questions … really speeds up the conversation versus just looking at a PDF or online at something.”
More than 50 exhibitors were on hand to share the latest innovations in tents, equipment, flooring, furniture, accessories and more.
“I’ve learned so much from all the manufacturers,” said Steven Eisenstein, president of Classic Tents & Events, Norcross, Ga. “I’ve learned the right tents, to buy. I got the TentOx from coming to this event many years ago. Coming to Tent Expo helps us learn how we can be more efficient with our labor, do more and save money. It’s coming to these events that you learn about all the different pieces of equipment and what they can do.”
The three-day Tent Expo kicked off with the annual golf tournament and a tour of the Daytona International Speedway, followed by two days of education, networking and product demos.
Indy Car racer James Hinchcliffe delivered the keynote address, telling the story of his struggles to become a professional driver, and his comeback from a life-threatening injury he suffered while practicing for the 2015 Indianapolis 500.
Two tent industry leaders were also honored with the Bruce W. Wodetzki Award. The award is named for the first chairman of IFAI’s Tent Rental Division and recognizes professionals who continue his legacy of impacting the growth, direction and success of the industry. This year’s honorees were Jim Reyen, business director at Eureka! Tents, and George Smith, president and CEO of Mahaffey Fabric Structures.
Education topics at this year’s Tent Expo included advice on diversifying your business and hiring, as well as tips on ballasting, an update on codes and standards and more.
“The biggest thing is the access to the knowledge,” Kohn said. “We’re a young company. We’re first generation, so we didn’t have all that knowledge passed down. To be able to go in and access all this information, particularly the safety information … this world didn’t exist to me before I started coming to Tent Expo and joined IFAI.”
The 2023 Tent Conference will be January 11-13 in Savannah, Ga.