February 8, 2021
tony digiovanniI attended my very first Landscape Ontario Congress 46 years ago, in 1975. Students enrolled in the Landscape Technology program at Humber College were required to visit the booths, collect catalogs and attend seminars. I was one of those students.  

I remember the experience vividly. It was exciting to visit the Sheraton Centre across from Toronto City Hall. The location was impressive. Entering through the lobby you could not miss the amazing and dramatic waterfall and landscape which greeted visitors. (I later learned it was built by Solty’s Landscape — one of the pioneer landscape firms in Toronto).   

You could feel the energy on the show floor and hear the buzz of people interacting, learning and socializing.  At the time, I was having second thoughts about my chosen career path.  

One of the seminars,“Your Future in the Landscaping Industry,” was given by Glen Piester, the first president of Landscape Ontario. His talk was engaging and energetic. Glen was passionate and enthusiastic about the future of the profession and he made students feel they were part of a community and movement that would make the world a better place. My doubts about the future went away thanks to my visit to Congress. Congress is much more than a trade show. It is community building accelerated. There are probably thousands of similar stories about the Congress experience.      

This January, we were forced to make the event virtual. We researched a number of platforms and watched as our counterparts across North America tried to recreate the face-to-face experience virtually. It is impossible to do. Nothing will ever replace the face-to-face experience. We learned that people do not want to sit at a computer all day browsing from one virtual booth to another within a three-day period. So we came up with a different approach: the Congress Connect Marketplace. Although it had a three day launch, it is an on-demand marketplace open all year round, 24 hours a day. So far, we have almost 4,000 registered users. We intend to keep bringing users to the site to experience both the educational sessions and the extensive marketplace. We intend to grow the number of marketplace participants so it will provide a single source for researching products, services and companies. If you have not already registered, please visit LOCongress.com and sign up for free.

I would like to thank the 145 marketplace exhibitors who took a chance and supported this new venture. Thank you for your trust and support. You are pioneers and partners. I want to recognize the sponsors: Banas Stones, Aspire Software, Stone Arch, Jim Pattison Lease, Dynascape, Rinox, NVK Nurseries, Connon Nurseries, SiteOne Landscape Supply, Turf Care, Natural Stone Traders, Unilock, People Corporation, York Region, In-Lite Outdoor Lighting, HortProtect, Toro, Region of Peel, Greenius, Miska, LMN, Gravely. Thank you for helping Landscape Ontario continue to advance the profession.   

The Congress Connect Marketplace has just begun. We are excited to realize our vision of becoming the number one source for the landscape profession.   

We are also excited about connecting with you face-to-face when the time comes. We miss you.
Tony DiGiovanni CHT
LO Executive Director