And the beat goes on and on and on…
After posting the 2003-2007 recollections, it was wonderful hearing from so many loyal and dedicated IAFC professionals and colleagues.
Over the past 25 years, we have had amazing conferences and nothing could have been achieved without the dynamic presenters from around the world, the sponsors, the exhibitors, the staff, the crew and, most importantly, the delegates. It’s been truly an honor to work 24/7 for the one-week event that reaches so many! It’s going to be great to celebrate 25 years of IAFC with delegates from over 30 countries!
And now, let’s wrap up the last four years.
IAFC 2008 - May 13-17 Wyndham Orlando Resort Orlando, Florida
Mama Mia! - Italy took the conference by storm and WaTai was introduced to IAFC by Diana Pagano who set the tone for future programs similar in nature. Her grace and enthusiasm was an inspiration to all delegates as she executed moves on deck like she was on a balance beam.
Combat Aqua – Gyoung Min Cho from Korea, in full garb, teaching combat and martial arts was another amazing feat to watch. Silvia Senati, Ricardo Maia and others added their own combat flair, insuring that combat sessions took a regular spot on IAFC Schedules going forward.
Swim Clinics - were introduced and have been on the schedule ever since. Our early morning dedicated swimmers have enjoyed company with Sue and Mick Nelson of USA Swimming and, in 2011, with Lori Sherlock assisted by Nana Whalen. These clinics have been proudly attended by many of our crossover vertical and horizontal pros. I tried to eliminate the clinics this year and I was raked over the coals.
Specialty Tracks – were offered on personal training, seniors and business, and wow, what a success for those that value in-depth education. Two out of three sold out and somehow the business track, although so needed in our industry, just barely ran which was a surprise to all of us. However, leaders from the business track as well as other tracks, did an amazing job. A new level of educational training within a conference had been achieved.
The Friday night party – was an international costume party and contest. This was the year that I am sure many people wondered “a costume party?” what is Angie thinking? Well, it turned in to one of the best themed social gatherings IAFC ever had. The costumes representing the various countries and USA regions were worn with pride and were just incredible to see. Congratulations to all of the countries, but can we just say that Trinidad & Tobago rocked the house! Steph and Her Brits didn’t do too bad either.
The First KPH Master Class – was held as a finale at the end of the conference and we have had KPH finales ever since. We started the KPH Fund in memory of Kim Huff, AEA’s Marketing and Sales Director who died in July 2007 from ovarian cancer. In 2008, we were able to donate $5,000 to the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance Foundation thanks to the wonderful participants and their donations to the KPH Class, as well donations from AEA and of course Kim’s family and friends. During the KPH finale on that early evening, the skies were cloudy but the sun was shining through. Part way through, it started to rain but the sun was still slightly shining.
Flash back to another early evening - to that very sad night in July 2007 when Kim passed away. It was sunny and family and friends were sitting in her living room and on her back porch when the clouds just dropped rain on us even though the sun was still present in the sky. It was truly remarkable to be in a “déjà vu” situation a year later at a class dedicated to her.
IAFC 2009 - May 12-16 Wyndham Orlando Resort Orlando, Florida
AEA’s 25th Birthday! - Not to be confused with IAFC’s 25th birthday this year! Truly a great conference and the energy never stopped despite a very shaky road to the pre-event weeks.
Swine Flu – Yes, remember the SWINE FLU epidemic? Well, wasn’t that was just the greatest news to have, less than a month before the conference, where delegates from all over the world were supposed to meet and learn. Cancellations were the worse ever with nearly 20% cancelling. It was a hard year to get through but we did. Barely.
Zumba Invasion - it was the debut of Aqua Zumba® and what a debut they had. Over 150 people in the water, 200+ on deck and the ground was shaking. Zumba’s creator, Beto Perez, was on site and led both land and water classes that were just truly amazing with energy, passion and hips moving like you’ve never seen. And then of course there was Maria Browning, who mesmerized all. Her smile, sincere attitude and her ability to move like that - well just makes this white girl want to hide in a closet!
Hydro Bike classes - Giorgia Collu from Italy and Roxana Brasil from Brazil definitely pushed the pedals in the pools and delivered excellent ideas to attendees.
Special Population Sessions – there were excellent classes, once again, on core, balance, gait and stability and here I thought these would be sleepers nearly 10 years ago. They are more popular now than ever.
The Portuguese Delegation - was gaining in size at IAFC and they definitely heated up the waters. Their enthusiasm, dedication to aquatic fitness and their overall ability to just enjoy life and have fun while being top notch professionals in their field never ceases to amaze me. Many of the Portuguese presenters have become favorites at IAFC. What I want to know is what’s in the water in Portugal? How can so many good looking men come from such a small country?
The Sprain – Ugh…on Wednesday morning I started running across the deck to get away from someone who drives me crazy and I tripped and went down pretty hard. Yes, I had flip-flops on…and no, AEA staff and crew are not allowed to wear them. Well, my lower leg swelled like a balloon and they thought I might have a break. Off to the Orlando emergency room I went! I had four important meetings set up that afternoon but instead spent the afternoon in emergency. Sprain, brace and torn meniscus in my knee …joy, joy…I had a private VIP party that night and was planning on wearing a brand new pair of three inch heel shoes that one of my friends, Jerri Anderson of Walk N Beauty Shoes, had made. There was no way I was wearing a brace. Against all doctor orders, I hobbled in to the party in my shoes, with head held high.
(FYI, to this day, my ankle and knee have not healed properly and surgery is in my cards one day soon!)
The Recession - like the year before, the recession was getting worse and worse and vendors were not seeing the numbers they needed. People were anxious to buy but needed to think about things and make sure they didn’t go over their budgets. Great, just what every convention planner wants is a low income expo hall. And yes, I sure heard it in post evaluations but we also heard that some vendors racked up some decent post show sales due to contacts made at IAFC.
Gaining in his confidence - (right, like he never had any) Mark Grevelding became a stronger part of the IAFC admin gang (well, when he wasn’t teaching or lounging pool side with a Bloody Mary). Throughout the week he was always seen somewhere making new friends and introducing people. His kindness to new people, those alone at the event or newbies, definitely had a lot of kindling power to build the social network that has brought together so many at IAFC.
Friday Night Beach Party (right, you mean surprise wedding) - four weeks before IAFC I sat in my dining room having a glass of wine and thought to myself, well, I guess I really do need to come up with some bam up ideas for the beach party. All that kept ringing in my head was a comment Steph Toogood from the UK made to me during the Friday evening costume party in 2008, “Geez Angie, how are you going to top this next year?” Troy Nelson, my fiancée for over 5 years and on-site photographer at IAFC came strolling in the door and I don’t know what made me blurt out the word but I just said “YES!” “Yes to what?” he said. “I said YES!” It took him a few minutes and when he awoke off the floor, he bolted to his truck and drove to my parents’ home to ask my father’s permission…isn’t that so sweet? I didn’t think someone in their 40’s and a third marriage really needed permission….but whatever, it was very sweet.
Wedding plans - the entire wedding was kept secret except for a very small handful of people. And this idea of doing it at IAFC…I’m sure Kim was rolling in her grave. And so, with the assistance of just a few people (Frankie, Julie and a few others), a wedding for 700 people was planned in less than a month. Hey, what better place to celebrate than with friends from all over the globe! It was truly a magical experience. Mark did an outstanding job opening the wedding and the crowd just roared as my ladies walked down the “IAFC aisle.” Fun was had by all, well except for maybe one person who made a negative comment on her evaluation. The party was a blast from what everyone says! I left early with MY NEW HUSBAND!
The KPH finale - was wild as it was the Zumba Gang, led by Tony Witt, that closed up the week! The energy was amazing and it was such a surprise to see so many people STILL HAD ENERGY! I was ready to do a face-plant and these people were still wanting more.
IAFC 2010 April 20-24 Wyndham Orlando Resort Orlando, Florida
(I know…I said NEVER AGAIN in April and look what happened!)
Yes, having an April event is just not fun and cuts in to the final weeks of planning you are used to having for over 15 years. April 2010 was another great year for IAFC, but once again…MAY is the best month for IAFC! Had IAFC been in May in 2010 we would have avoided the catastrophe known simply as “the volcano”.
The Volcano - 10 days prior to IAFC, a volcano in Iceland threw ash over most of Europe and we had presenters and attendees stranded and not able to get to the USA because air travel was shut down. One determined woman lived in the airport for a day and actually did make it in. If anyone could do it, this woman could. Guess who? Steph Toogood. Come hell or high water, she wasn’t missing her sessions! Well, she missed one but Craig Stuart and upcoming Lori Templeman covered ‘brilliantly’ as Steph would say. Unfortunately, over 50 registrants, as well as presenters - Silvia Senati, Katrien Lemahieu and Daniela DeToia did not make it in. The presenters that covered for them were outstanding.
Major recession time – the economic crisis got worse all over the world. This was a tough one to watch build but in the end, it turned out to be another step forward, small step, but a step forward for the aquatic fitness industry.
The international presence – was once again gaining momentum and the pools and decks were sizzling this year! It was wonderful to see so much young talent coming out with such creative ideas and professional presentations. I was starting to feel really old. Of course Aqua Zumba® was back and stronger than ever with Maria Browning, Tony Witt and Joy Prouty. All sessions and pre and post conference extended programs SOLD OUT. Amazing, who would of thought.
The Sponsors – wow, it’s so amazing to have the support of our sponsors, as they are the backbone to AEA. Many sponsors donated apparel, gifts and more to make each and every person at IAFC special considering the rough economic climate that hung over the event. Thanks to those wonderful companies that have supported AEA for years and thanks to the new sponsors that came on board in 2010!
Friday Night Mardi Gras Celebration – this was another great party and the costumes were amazing! IAFC DJ Scott Messina, once again, rocked the house and a fun evening was had by all. The Wyndham served up an amazing New Orleans style dinner buffet and many from around the world were introduced to catfish, creole and Cajun cooking!
50/50 Drawing - this was the first year of the KPH 50/50 Drawing and the winner walked away with about $1,400.00. The KPH Finale was also another great performance and it showed the power of so many great presenters. The attendees were still, once again, full of energy. Munchies and an (accidental) open bar that was a HUGE misunderstanding between the hotel and Angie was a nice way to wrap up the event for another year.
IAFC 2011 - May 10-14 Wyndham Orlando Resort Orlando, Florida
The Aquatic Revolution begins in Orlando! This was the BEST BEST BEST IAFC yet! Since taking over in 1994, I cannot remember a year where attendees were so excited with the stellar line up of presenters and session offerings. The international presence once again increased and the 60’s spirit lived throughout the week-long event and the groovin’ just never stopped! There were absolutely no complaints and even behind the scenes, everything ran as smooth as syrup.
Fuzzy thinking - this was an extremely tough one to plan and I was down to the wire on almost every task. Yes, this was the year I finally quit smoking! January 14, 2011 was D-Day and my life hasn’t been the same since. I now know exactly what overcoming an addiction means and 2011 was one of the hardest years of my life - let alone planning a conference while barely even knowing my name! The months of January through May were mostly a fog as I couldn’t workout and had zero energy. I wasn’t eating all that bad, except for pretzels. However I had gained weight and the pregnancy rumors started at IAFC…how lovely for me. NOT! Anyway, somehow through the haze and with a lot of help from staff it turned out to be a wonderful event from the attendee’s perspective.
The internationals - were really taking on the USA in attendance with Italy, Korea, Portugal, Russia and Brazil bringing in large groups. I am pretty sure there were 40 countries in attendance. WOW! Amazing!
Smooth sailing - there was no swine flu, no volcanoes and we had very little weather disturbances but it was very hot weather wise. It was also hot session wise too. The presenters just kept getting better and better. Gaining in popularity was the GPS/DRY Dock sessions that provided a break from the pool but gave excellent educational ideas without getting wet. Mark Grevelding did a program called Name that Muscle and Julie See, Eduardo Netto and a few others taught core programming which was well received.
Improving Economy - the Expo Hall was great! There were so many new things that our vendors did. Sales were up, leads were made and contacts were set up for years to come. It was so wonderful to have such a happy group of vendors, sponsors and attendees having a ball with the options available in the expo.
The Friday Night 60’s Party - was an amazing hit and the 60’s were remembered by everyone, no matter what age. The costumes were so creative and it wasn’t just hippies! We had Jacqueline Kennedy look-a-likes, we had Mod Squad gals, we had ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ (very cute Lori Templeman), and we had the ‘Leave it to Beaver’ troops. The best surprise was John Lennon and Yoko Ono lounging in the Peace Bed at the entrance to the dinner and party. What an amazing stunt Sharon Josza and John Papcun pulled off, with the help of Rui Konno!
The KPH Finale - was UNBELIEVABLE and it rocked the house. I have no idea how we will ever top that performance. Even Julie See was so excited that she jumped in the pool with her Blackberry in her pocket. Way to go Julie…smart move.
This was a very long week, but as mentioned earlier…I think it was the best conference yet! All I remember thinking on Sunday morning as I drove home is, “what the hell am I going to do for next year and IAFC’s 25th Anniversary?”
IAFC has been a week where, over the years, thousands of people from around the globe have gathered to learn, earn CECs, network and socialize. As I look back and try to go from year to year, we have literally hit thousands of people who have dedicated so much of their lives to making others healthy through aquatic fitness. IAFC attendance numbers have ranged each year and can go from 500 to 900 attendees, but a few things always remain the same - the smiles, the eagerness to share and learn and the drop dead support of a community within the health and fitness industry that has always been like the ugly step sister. There is always someone new at IAFC but it’s easy to spot them and welcome them into the AEA Family and Team.
Heading into IAFC 25…
As we head in to our 25th Anniversary, I sit here and realize that IAFC is an annual process of administration, tasks and more tasks and projects which start immediately after the week ends each year. IAFC planning and preparations are huge and the lights always stay on. Like IAFC 2011, this event is also running down to the wire as I had to give up almost two months, putting everything with IAFC on hold, as they finally figured out why I didn’t have any energy. My thyroid was shot and my right artery had a 99% block. All was finally discovered in October 2011 and I had a real fancy platinum stent put in my artery, which opened up the oxygen flow. Bummer, I guess I cannot get that boob job after all. It is no wonder that I could barely exercise or do anything without nearly passing out. Thank the Lord I quit smoking when I did as I probably would be dead today if I didn’t. I’m back on my feet and, at last, getting healthier and healthier each day. Life has to slow down for me a little and stress has to take a backseat! Kind of hard at AEA but it’s manageable.
Anyway, being a few months behind and with IAFC 60 days out, we will make this 25th a special year for everyone even in rush-rush mode! I wonder, at times, why I took this job and why I do what I do and I remember all the individuals and professionals in our association that are so dedicated to advancing this industry. IAFC gives us that platform each year. The industry would be nothing without the professionals that support IAFC and, more importantly, support AEA.
Thank you to all who have made my 25 years with AEA a truly magical and memorable experience. You have my promise that I will continue to work on bigger and better IAFC’s and other events into the next decade and beyond as we all come together to strengthen the industry and take it to the level it deserves.
See you in about 8 ½ weeks and remember the excitement begins Monday Night, May 14th with the Aquatic Entertainment Revue featuring over 40 of the BEST performer/presenters in the world and followed by the Welcome Reception where you’ll have a chance to meet many presenters and fellow attendees up close and personal.