December 1, 2019
It can do for you what it’s done for me
Come home to Congress
BY MICHAEL LAPORTE
It’s Friday morning, the show floor is bare. I watch teams gather, jobs get delegated and displays build up from nothing. The floor gets energized with beeping forklifts, cases of merchandise, trucks moving in and out, and people renewing friendships. Then opening morning comes, along with a little anxiety.
I am at Congress for a seven-day progression every year. It’s always an emotional run, but you are never alone. From a vast open space, to excitement, to almost sadness at the end. The whole team wants to see Congress succeed, and it does.
I was a student at Niagara College when I attended my first Congress in 2000; I volunteered in the Conference area to get into the show for free! Since I did not know many people, I found the show overwhelming. But when I went to the volunteer area, it took about three minutes to feel part of everything. It was that welcoming. I was introduced to so many people; suddenly I felt as if I had been in the industry forever.
I continued volunteering this way about four more years, and eventually ended up serving on the Landscape Ontario Show Committee. Congress has benefited my career in so many ways.
Happy faces on the show floor make me happy. Some in the industry tend to race through the floor and skip the events. They come alone or in a small group, are in and out, and that’s as far as they take it. I know for a fact that spending multiple days at the show benefits me, as well as others. You get the opportunity to develop further, and new relationships open up. You don’t have to be on a board or committee, just take advantage of what is offered. Happy people are the ones that stay at the show longer.
My appreciation for Congress exhibitors deepened when the company I work with took the step of booking a booth. It has also been great building so many personal relationships with suppliers. Knowing the Congress exhibitors from my committee work has broadened my industry contacts, because I often get calls or emails asking if I know a vendor for this or that — and I usually do. I am a connection point; knowing the suppliers helps me to help others, who are there for me when I need something.
Congress really does bring people together. For example, the GreenLive area offers free demos on success with trees, and it’s a collaboration between nursery growers and arborists. I have really enjoyed watching those groups share and work together.
What is Congress? I recently heard it called a homecoming, which is bang-on. In the committee, we say the show’s purpose is to provide the opportunity for communication, education and celebration. Congress is so much more than sales on the floor. I hope you will join me in coming home, to Congress.
Michael LaPorte is a longstanding Congress volunteer, and general manager of Clearview Nursery, based in Stayner, Ont.