Specially invited guests of the NWFA gather for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the association's newly constructed headquarters facility.

The trade show component of this year’s NWFA convention saw the participation of a record 525 exhibitors.
Downtown St. Louis, the city where the National Wood Flooring Association was established in 1985, recently played host to more than 2,800 wood flooring professionals for the NWFA 18th Annual Education Conference and Wood Flooring Expo. Although the pace of traffic during the trade show portion of the convention was at times erratic, a record 525 exhibitors participated in the event.

All told, more than 300 companies were represented at this year's expo, which was conducted April 9-12 at the America's Center convention facility, little more than a stone's throw from the famous Gateway Arch on the western bank of the Mississippi River.

Bob Humphreys of Frederick, Md.-based Majestic Wood Floors (center) is congratulated for winning the Member’s Choice Floor of the Year Award in the Expert Division by NWFA President David Williams (left) and opening session speaker Mike Ditka.
"This year's event was a tremendous success," said Ed Korczak, NWFA executive director. "Despite the sluggish economy and the fear of travel due to the ongoing war, our attendance was strong. Our exhibitors noted that those attending the show were a more motivated audience, and that they were able to spend more time with potential customers."

As always, products showcased during the trade event ran the entire gamut of the wood floor segment -- from myriad wood floor lines and prefabricated wood medallions to sanding and finishing equipment, floor coatings and stains, and assorted installation sundries and accessories. Certain product trends -- such as wider widths, use of unusual species and distressed looks -- were clearly in vogue at this year's show.

Convention attendees get an up-close look at one of the installation demonstrations staged on the trade show floor.
Prefinished hand-scraped wood flooring, in particular, was frequently represented among exhibiting manufacturers.

When they weren't browsing products, attendees took in a variety of educational workshops, observed various installation-related demonstrations and some even participated in contests of installation speed and skill. For the first time ever, NWFA sponsored a Speed Competition that saw skilled contractors vie with their peers to see who could replace a 2-foot board in a wood floor, using only hand tools, in the fastest possible time.

Working at a feverish pace, James Bemberry replaces a floor board during the convention's inaugural Speed Competition.
This year's event featured more than 19 educational sessions and speakers. Included were discussions on sales, customer service, the Internet, and a variety of technical topics. The convention's opening session featured NFL Hall of Famer Mike Ditka, who shared his observations on team building and explained why it is critical to professional success in virtually any field of endeavor.

In another highlight of the proceedings, two busloads of show attendees were invited to witness a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new, soon-to-be-opened NWFA headquarters in the St. Louis suburb of Chesterfield, Mo. A tour of the state-of-the-art facility, which was in the final stages of completion at the time of the convention, followed the ribbon cutting.

The association also continued its tradition of recognizing excellence among wood floor professionals. Winners of the annual Floor of the Year and Design Competition were announced, and show-goers given an opportunity to view a photo gallery of all entrant installations. In addition, NWFA congratulated it 2003 Degree & Industry Award recipients during a luncheon ceremony. Fifty-eight degrees were conferred this year. Finally, the association inducted 50-year industry veteran Claude Taylor to the NWFA Hall of Fame. Taylor began his hardwood flooring career in the mailroom at EL Bruce Co. and ultimately retired from Memphis Hardwood Flooring Co. as sales and marketing director in 1995. He served as president of NOFMA for two terms, and on the NWFA board for six years.

The Hall of Fame Award is presented to individuals who exhibit personal commitment and dedication in uniting all segments of the wood flooring industry. Nominees require a unanimous vote from the NWFA Board of Directors for approval.

The next NWFA convention is scheduled for April 14-17 in Charlotte, N.C.