February 4, 2020
Renewed Congress kicks off a new decade
Members of the landscape and horticulture profession gathered at the Toronto Congress Centre, Jan. 7-9, 2020 to kick off a new year and a new decade at Congress 2020 – Canada’s Green Industry Show and Conference.

Produced by Landscape Ontario, the 47th edition of Congress featured over 600 exhibitors, dozens of seminars, fun, after hours events, plus a full-day of education the day before the trade show. Add in new products, the association’s awards night and its annual general meeting, and Congress truly is a homecoming for the profession.

Landscape Ontario Show Manager, Heather MacRae says many positive changes were made for this year’s event. MacRae says the association’s 2019 theme of renewal actually carried through to Congress 2020, even though it was not specifically planned out that way. “This was the first Congress of a new decade and volunteers on the Landscape Ontario Show Committee have been working closely with staff to bring new ideas and new experiences to Congress even more so over the last couple of years. The result was really noticeable this year, with a refreshed and renewed show.”

woman sitting on a commerical lawn mowerExhibitor displays and products caused some excitement on the show floor.
MacRae says one the biggest changes this year was a number of show features added to Hall F. These included axe-throwing, the Patio Lounge, an Ale Trail station, the Landscape Ontario job board, free WiFi and a phone charging station. “We really should have called it Hall Fun,” MacRae says. The new features were added to complement the existing Hardscape LIVE stage and Canada Blooms Campus student gardens already in that area of the show.

Student Gardens

LO’s Show Committee, staff and exhibitors began setup of the massive exposition the Friday before, on Jan. 3. They were joined by dozens of landscaping and horticulture students from four Ontario post-secondary institutions. Durham College, Fanshawe College, Humber College and Niagara Parks School of Horticulture all built feature gardens at the show. Showcasing the skill and talent of future members of the profession, the student gardens make up the Canada Blooms Campus.

Building the feature gardens gives students some great hands-on experience, part of which is a firm completion deadline imposed by LO Show Committee member and student garden coordinator, Brian Cocks.

Leonardo Guilherme, a second-year student at Humber College, said he “learned a lot about team cooperation,” in putting together the garden. “I think it’s amazing how we put this together in only two days and I think we had a really ambitious design.” Guilderme says some of the conceptual parts of the design had to be worked out on site — just like in the real world.

student garden builders gather for a group photoStudents garden builders gather for a break during show setup.
Over 600 exhibitors are accessible under one roof at Congress, offering everything from robotic mowers to nursery stock to engineered soil to natural stone. Jim Philip, operations manager at Wentworth Landscapes in Picton, Ont., was able to purchase some new tools and save some money. “We bought two zip levels. We started using them about four years ago and our crews love them. I only get to see the owner at Congress and he had a good show deal. We saved $200 per zip level,” Philip said. “There’s always a certain group of suppliers we only ever get to see here, so we try to meet them to talk about how things are going, and we are here checking out the latest, greatest and cutting edge stuff.”

Survey results

Philip is not alone in his desire to see the latest and greatest at Congress. Year after year, attendee surveys, like the one conducted after this year’s show, indicate that Congress is the place to see what’s new.

Over 500 attendees took time to respond to a post-show survey — a tool that is used each year to collect valuable feedback that is then used by the Show Committee to make changes improvements to the event.

Of those who responded, just over half said they typically have two to four people from their company attend the show. Half of those who attend are making purchasing decisions for their company.

Individual comments included:

“I love Congress as it is a massively important way to meet and ask questions of other professionals in my industry, to see what is coming up with new technology, to educate on a few topics during the Green LIVE discussions and to collect my nursery catalogues for the year! I would love to try to get my company more involved in future years.”

“We got a lot of helpful information about products and companies.”

“Inclusion of talks that relate the landscape trade to climate change, biodiversity loss and ecosystem restoration was very important.”

“A lot of excellent and diversified vendors from all parts of the landscape industry, really enjoyed the show!”

“It is a great learning and networking opportunity. The speakers are always willing to share their knowledge and the trade show floor is set up that you have to see the whole place meaning you may find gems you wouldn’t have thought you needed.”
  three men looking at a new productThe New Product Showcase offered a wide range of interesting equipment and supplies.

Four days of learning

Education and learning are also a major component to the Congress experience. On Warm-Up Monday, Jan. 6, attendees of the 55th annual IPM Symposium earned six Continuing Education Credits (CECs) from the IPM Council of Canada while getting updated on the latest research, practices and products for turf care professionals. At the event, the IPM Person of the Year Award was presented to Ken Pavely of Dol Turf Restoration.

Landscape Ontario’s Turfgrass Sector Group is instrumental in finding relevant speakers, experts and presenters for the event.

Landscape Designers met for a full-day conference on Jan. 6 as well. An initiative of the LO Designer Sector Group, presented with recognition of the Ontario Association of Landscape Architects (OALA), sessions attended qualified attendees for OALA Continuing Education Credits.

Jan. 6 education events also included the annual Landscape Ontario Peer to Peer Network workshop. Facilitated by program manager, Jacki Hart, the engaging and interactive leadership improvement event had participants roll up their sleeves to work on stepping up their leadership game. Business owners and managers who attend also help to choose learning priorities for five other workshops held across the province throughout the year.

Once the trade show opened Jan. 7, the Congress Conference program ran concurrently, with daily keynote speakers, the popular Lunch and Learn series, Owner Only Workshops and the full spectrum of expert speakers, panels and workshops. Topics ranged from social media strategies to hiring great people to stormwater management and working with difficult clients.
  man presenting another with an award on stageKen Pavely (right) accepts the IPM Award from Dr. Michael Brownbridge.

LIVE education series

For those attending the trade show, Congress continued to provide a number of learning opportunities right on the show floor. Held twice daily, Hardscape LIVE, Green LIVE and Drive LIVE focused on educating landscape pros about the latest best practices, products, technology and regulations in their respective areas. In addition, the new Recruit LIVE offered a place for companies to meet with potential employees in the Patio Lounge area.

Show organizers would like to recognize members of the LO Hardscape Committee, LO Growers Sector Group and ISA Ontario for their work organizing and running the LIVE education series.
  police officer talking to a large groupPolice officers answered questions at Drive LIVE.

After hours events

After the trade show closed, LO members took to the stage on Tuesday evening at the LO Awards of Excellence ceremony. About 700 people attended this year’s evening ceremony that provided an entertaining evening celebration of the best landscape projects across the province. For more details on the event, see page 17.

Before the trade show opened on Jan. 8, LO members gathered in the early morning hours for the association’s annual general meeting. This year’s AGM was well-attended and included a changing of the guard, as LO president Warren Patterson passed the gavel to Dave Wright. The meeting also saw the introduction of a number of changes to the association’s membership categories. For details on the new membership categories, see page 8. For full coverage of the AGM, see page 15.

Jan. 8 also saw the introduction of Congress ‘After Dark’ — a new twist on the post-show Wednesday evening fun. Held in the ballroom of the Delta Hotels Toronto Airport, the 600+ people at Congress ‘After Dark’ could simply sit back and relax in a house-party-like atmosphere, or play a variety of games that included pool, air hockey, and larger-than-life Jenga and Connect Four. A DJ and dance floor, food and televised Toronto Maple Leaf game had the crowed cheering and excited well-beyond the 12 a.m. end time.

three women playing a puzzle game at a partyCongress ‘After Dark’ had lots of games, music, and fun.
“The other major change with the Wednesday evening event was that it didn’t’ start until eight o’clock,” MacRae explains. “It used to start as soon as the trade show ended at five, and for exhibitors that made for a really long day. Plus, many of them have staff or clients that are all gathered here for the show, and with the later start, they now have a time to do their own thing on their own time.”

Best Booth Awards

Each year, the exhibitors lining the aisles at Congress are evaluated and scored on a number of criteria by volunteer judges for the best booth awards. Broken down by booth size, the awards are then presented by LO’s Show Committee at the event.  Congratulations to this year’s winners:
Best Booth 100 sq. ft.: Limestone Trail
Best Booth 100-400 sq. ft.: The Wood Shed
Best Booth 400-800 sq. ft.: Connon Nurseries NVK Holdings
Paul J. Day Award for Best of Show: In-Lite Design
Best Booth over 800 sq. ft. and Best Promotion Award: Connon Nurseries CBV Holdings
  5 people with middle holding an awardLimestone Trail, winner of Best Booth 100 sq. ft.

Show Committee

Landscape Ontario’s Show Committee meets regularly throughout the year and has a very hands-on role during the move-in, move-out and show days. Thank you to the following volunteers for their dedication, expertise, and support.
Terry Childs, Chair
Nathan Helder, Past Chair
Brian Cocks CHT
Paul DeGroot
Barry Dickson
Lindsay Drake Nightingale
Beth Edney CLD
Shawn Giovanetti
Michael LaPorte CHT
Chris Muller
Rebecca Parker
Warren Patterson
Klaas Sikkema
Jason Vettese
  two men standingKlaas Sikkema and Paul DeGroot from LO’s Show Committee.

Congress 2020 volunteers

Thank you to the following volunteers who helped with various elements of the show:
Jon Agg
Irene Bultena
Margot Byers
Connie Cadotte
Justin Correia
Cassandra Cotter
Kim Cotter
Marina Dimitriadis
Brandon Gelderman
Carl Hastings
Haley Johnston
Luke Koudys
Ron Koudys CLD
Skai Leja
Mark Mastantuono
Teresa Matamoros
Fran Moore
Chaz Morenz
Nick Morgante
Pam Nichols
Greg Redshaw
Haig Seferian CLD
Ron Sikkema
Laurie-Ann Stuart
Audriana VanderWerf
Bruce Warren
Eilleen Warren
Andrea Weddum
Welwyn Wong
Alex Zalewski
Bin Zhou
  man looking at a display of power toolsMany exhibitors offered show specials to visitors.

Congress 2020 sponsors

Congress organizers would like to recognize the following sponsors of this year’s event:
Banas Stones
Beaver Valley Stone
Bobcat Company
Brett Young Seeds
Canadian Fence Industry Association
Connon Nurseries
Duke Distribution - A Div of GC Duke Equipment
DynaSCAPE Software
Fusion Landscape Professional Program
G&L Group
Gelderman Landscape Services
Greenville Planters
Hindsite Software
International Society of Arboriculture - Ontario Chapter (ISAO)
JB & D Company
Killaloe Wood Products
Landscape Trades magazine
Lawn Life Natural Turf Products
M.K. Rittenhouse & Sons
NVK Holdings
Niagara Parks Alumni Association
Ontario Horticultural Trades Foundation
Plant Products
Polaris Leasing
STONEarch - Natural Stone Wholesale
Select Stone Supply
Spring Meadow Nursery
Target Specialty Products
Tillson Brands

Congress 2021

The LO Show Committee and staff are already planning for next year. The 48th edition of Congress will take place at the Toronto Congress Centre, Jan. 12-14, 2021. Full details will be available via the LOcongress.com website by Sept. 1.