I attended my first Western Pool & Spa Show way back in 1990, when it was held in Pasadena instead of its current long-time home in Long Beach, Calif. Over the ensuing years, I’ve attended (I think) 11 installments, the latest being this past March 10-12.  

Right as I walked into this year’s event, I couldn’t help but notice a large display honoring many of the people who helped build the show over the years but are no longer with us. I knew a number of the names and faces, some fairly well, and found myself reflecting on the show and what it means to the industry and to me.

The Western Pool & Spa Show was born back in 1979 and has since remained a strong reflection of the region’s dense population of independent service technicians. Indeed, the “Wild West” motif has always harmonized well with the fiercely determined spirit of the professional audience it serves.

In years past, that freewheeling attitude resulted in an event that was long on lively conversation and definitely not short of rowdy behavior on and off the show floor. By and large, the attendees who fill the aisles and seminars (attendance hovers around 9,000 annually) are hardworking people who earn their livings with their hands, backs, technical savvy and large quantities of sunscreen. They work hard and at times play equally as hard.

Nowadays, the show has a more professional polish than it has in the past, and it attracts more builders and retailers than it once did, but the underlying spirit of the service industry remains firmly in place. To a large extent, the event hasn’t changed that much and some exhibitors and attendees offer the occasional gripe about “déjà vu all over again.”

Certainly, that charge applies to a number of industry events, and to a large extent, is the nature of trade shows in general. For that and other unrelated reasons, I’ve gone years at a time without attending WPSS and when returning, there is an abiding sense that the song has remained much the same.

But there’s a sweet side to hearing a good tune over and over again. There’s comfort in the familiarity, a sense of shared history when rejoining old friends and acquaintances and even at times hints of tradition. I personally had a great time at the AQUA booth chatting with friends, old and new, and hearing from readers. I even reconnected with a couple of characters I’ve badly missed over the past few years.

The “Western Show” may not be an earth-shattering event but it clearly occupies a cozy spot on the calendar. It is, after all, the final trade show of the season prior to the onset of spring. As such, it serves as a sort of pre-game huddle for an industry whose members often push the limits of physical endurance while other people frolic in the sunshine.

To my mind, that’s a comfort, and company, well worth the keeping.  





Eric Herman is Senior Editor of AQUA Magazine.