The first virtual Atlantic-OASE Professional Contractor Conference kicked off Wednesday, Dec. 2. Like most events these days, the two-day conference was held remotely. Using Zoom allowed the conference, which is usually held in person in Cleveland, Ohio, to expand from Europe to Australia, from Mexico to Canada and all over the United States.
The decision to present the conference virtually was not an easy one. Attendees have always enjoyed the opportunity to meet and network in person, but this year, safety took precedence.
More than 200 conference attendees avoided the rigors of travel, masks and distancing (and perhaps even the need for pants!) while still interacting by voice and text with presenters, “meeting” other attendees in chat rooms, accessing on-demand videos and entering product giveaways following every presentation.
Jeff Weemhoff, President of Atlantic-OASE, welcomed attendees from the company factory in Aurora, Ohio, with an introduction and a brief preview of the coming events. Thorsten Muck, CEO of OASE Living Water, introduced himself and the multinational company from world headquarters in Horstel, Germany. Thorsten presented the history of OASE from its roots, with an analysis of the current business challenges and a prospective of future growth.
In the sessions that followed, Jim Chubb showcased the advanced filtration systems from his home in Michigan. From Denver, Colorado, Kyle Weemhoff hosted a session called “The Atlantic-OASE Water Feature,” a detailed look at a build with a new, “top-down, bottom-up” fusion that combines the American skimmer-and-falls with the European pump-in-a-pond approach, claiming better results than either approach delivers alone.
After a short break, Leah LaFarciola, new multimedia specialist at Atlantic-OASE, flew attendees via camera drone through the 170,000-square-foot building, “stopping” at the many stations and areas that comprise the huge facility. Of special interest was the final reveal of the SandBox Training Center, with fully landscaped façade and “backyard,” complete with sod lawns, plantings, walks and patios. The center was designed not only for hands-on training in landscape and hardscape water features, but also as a year-round backdrop for photos, videos and online events.
Next, Frayne McAtee, presenting from the Pacific Northwest, went through the calculations for single and multi-nozzle fountain systems. After a spirited roundtable discussion, the first day of the conference ended with attendees splitting up into Zoom rooms for a virtual cocktail hour, where they could chat up the day’s events with Atlantic-OASE staff.
McAtee and yours truly (Demi Fortuna) kicked off the next day by highlighting new products, including filters that guarantee clear water for smaller water gardens and hardscape features, hand-hammered brass bowls with a deep patina and product bundles that add water and light to new and existing hardscapes. Category manager and internationally respected expert on “natural bathing,” Maximilian Colditz joined us from Germany for an informative talk on the status of natural swimming pools, a hot topic around the world right now. Sean Bell unraveled the knots of estimating hardscape water features live from North Carolina, and lastly, Jim Chubb wrapped up the presentations with a close-up on the Easy Garden Control system, which offers wi-fi control and management of advanced filtration, pump and lighting systems.
In closing Thursday afternoon, Weemhoff presented the President’s Award to renowned sustainability expert, fitness coach and award-winning designer and builder of water features, Mike Garcia of Enviroscapes LA for his years of teaching by example the responsible use of water in the landscape. The Pond Monster Lloyd Lightsey presented the Monster Award to Art of the Yard’s Shane Hemphill and Heath Webb for their constant and continuing support of other contractors across the industry. Finally, Weemhoff concluded the conference with the presentation of the APC Contractor of the Year Award to Jason and Tony Lenox and their crew at Ponds Inc. of Illinois for their years of excellence in pond construction and their influential promotion of best practices.