Event Recap

Tent Professionals Enjoy Business and Fun at Tent Conference 2020

Event tent installation is all about teamwork, and the 110 verified participants at IFAI Tent Conference 2020 got to show off those skills last week in an “Amazing Race”-style competition that had them working together to solve puzzles, climb a rock tower and ride a mechanical bull among other fun challenges!

Gathering at Westgate River Ranch Resort & Rodeo in River Ranch, Fla., tent pros got a taste of the ranch lifestyle while networking and benefiting from valuable educational sessions. Saroj Bains, director at Event Labor Works, Montreal, Canada, described the conference as “going to summer camp with all my colleagues. Tent Conference embraces and supports team building within the industry. This was a great takeaway.”

The three-day event kicked off on Wednesday, Jan. 22, with a chilly wilderness adventure that included an airboat and swamp buggy ride and trap and skeet shooting. Old and new friends enjoyed an old-fashioned cookout followed by socializing at the ranch saloon and s’mores around a fire pit.

The conference got down to business and education on Thursday, Jan. 23, starting with a discussion about new information technologies for tent and event rental. Michael Holland, Chattanooga Tent Co., described his company’s integration of Radio-frequency Identification (RFID) technology into the inventory management processes. Alexandre Renaud, Fiesta Tents Ltd., offered an overview of his company’s experience with web-based staff tracking software. Doug Fabian, a product specialist with Verizon Connect, discussed the benefits of GPS and fleet management software solutions.

In the day’s second session, Michael Tharpe, Rainier Industries Ltd., and Nick Deninno, B&R Innovations, discussed safe anchoring and ballasting, covering topics that ranged from tips for getting crew members to wear their personal protective gear, to common staking and ballasting issues, to a ballasting verses staking case study.

At the Tent Rental Division (TRD) business meeting, outgoing board chairman Brian Richardson, L&A Tent Rentals Inc., handed over the reins to vice chairman Michael Tharpe and was honored with the IFAI Outstanding Volunteer Award. Steve Belliveau, Anchor Industries, is the new vice chairman. TRD also welcomed new board members Nick Deninno; Zach Wilson, Greenwich Tent Co.; and Joe Langehaug, Losberger De Boer.

Under sunny skies, the TRD Experience saw 12 teams of eight zipping around the ranch on golf carts to be the first team to complete 16 challenges and be named “IFAI Tent Masters.” The ranch experience reached its pinnacle Thursday evening with a private rodeo featuring bull riding, barrel racing and trick riding. TRD board members even got into the ring, vying to be the first to remove a ribbon from a ferocious bull (in reality, a calf).

Friday, Jan. 24, brought more education, starting with a town hall discussion on labor issues. Chad V. Sorenson, president of Adaptive HR Solutions, presented strategies for attracting and keeping employees, including suggestions for finding employees through nontraditional labor sources.

The conference concluded with an update on the code development process from TRD code consultant Paul Armstrong, P.E., C.B.O. Armstrong discussed code changes related to tents and temporary structures in the 2018 I-codes, which are being adopted by jurisdictions now; the 2021 I-codes, which have been voted on and are being prepared for publication by the International Code Council; and the outlook for tents in the code revision process for the 2024 I-codes.

First-time attendee Jill Weis of Cartwright & Daughters Tent and Party Rental said she attended the conference to keep updated on the tent industry and to learn from the seminars.

“I had several takeaways from each of the seminars, which is always beneficial for growth,” she said. “But of course, the best part is meeting and getting to know others in the industry that have a true passion for it. Looking forward to attending next year’s Expo.”

As tent professionals said their good-byes and began to head home, Richardson remarked on the success of the event.

“I think it’s one of the best industry events I’ve ever been to,” he said. “The rodeo was great, and we couldn’t have done it without the help of our sponsors and all those who attended. It was a special three days for us here at Westgate River Ranch.”