“We have a three-tier strategy for Aquatic Experience,” said Les Wilson, member of the WPA board of directors, chair of the Aquatic Experience Committee and co-founder of Cobalt International. “We want to be a place the aquatic community can come together and network—retailers and manufacturers, reef keepers and freshwater folks. We want to be the most significant event in aquatics, period. We have the most incredible speaker list anywhere. Everyone speaking here is top in their category.”
Demonstrating this commitment to the aquatic industry there were many new features at the second Aquatic Experience. These included the Aquatic Experience Fancy Guppy Competition presented by the International Fancy Guppy Association and the Aquascaping Live! Contest presented by the Aquatic Gardeners Association and sponsored by Fluval. The latter included small tank and large tank competitions.
Another new feature was the wall of fish, a large display of more than 130 aquariums full of fresh and saltwater fish provided by the Florida Tropical Fish Farmers Association.
For the kids, there was a children’s aquarium decorating contest. The children were mentored by experts as they designed and assembled their tanks. They got to keep them at the end of the show. This event was sponsored by Seachem and United Pet Group.
Another hit with the crowd was the Live Shark Encounter sponsored by Aqueon. There were several large sharks on display with educational and entertaining presentations given at different times throughout the show.
The exhibitors on the show floor included a wide range of manufacturers, retailers, hobby associations and fish breeders and coral propagators. All were excited about the event and pleased with the turnout.
“We came last year and it didn’t feel like a show in its first year,” said Lindsay Meixsell of United Pet Group. “[The organizers] knew what they were doing. And Chicago is an important market for the aquatics. The show has been good and we’ve been busy.”
Other features included numerous educational talks on a diversity of topics, a townhall discussion on the state of the aquatic hobby, and a banquet with keynote speaker Jeff Gibula, the zoological operations manager at Newport Aquarium.
The 2015 Aquatic Experience will be held in the same venue from November 6-8.