June 18, 2024 5:20 AM
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2021 ESCA Award Winners Honored in Philadelphia

Last week, The Exhibition Services & Contractors Association (ESCA) honored their 2021 award winners during the Winter Awards Celebration & Reception in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Each year ESCA recognizes those industry pioneers and leaders who inspire, innovate and have risen to the challenge to serve their customers, community, and the exhibition industry.

The 2021 Innovation Award, which recognizes those individuals or organizations that have implemented innovative and creative industry solutions and applications, went to Fern who partnered with ShareMyHealth to bring together a best-in-class provider of Health Care Testing and Technology with Fern’s 110 plus years of live event experience. Fern HealthCheck has provided the opportunity for dozens of events and tens of thousands of attendees to return to the tradeshow floor safely through vaccine and testing verification solutions as well as on-site PCR and antigen testing. This solution was never about revenue generation for Fern; it was about doing their part to help the industry return in a manner that supported show organizers and their stakeholders.

The 2020 Innovation Award went to beMatrix, whose innovative efforts and hard work creating an innovative solution to keep their customers and our industry at work during a challenging time. During the pandemic, beMatrix shifted its focus from exhibit building to live communication. As part of this shift, they wanted to create a product line that would allow exhibit and event builders to use their beMatrix products outside or in a retail/event setting. As a result, beMatrix created pop-OUT.

While beMatrix was unable to be present to accept the award, Tara Ericson, CEO, stated, “We are humbled and honored to have won this award. Thank you from all of us at beMatrix USA.”

The Humanitarian Award is awarded to those individuals or organizations that have contributed significantly to alleviating human suffering, improving the quality of life and well-being of individuals both in the U.S. and abroad. This year, that award went to International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees (I.A.T.S.E.).

During the pandemic, the women, men, and kin from hundreds of IATSE Locals across the US and Canada participated in creating PPE for Hospitals, essential workers, assisted living, and homeless centers, as well as retail workers. The membership produced more than 50,000 masks that included those acceptable to hospitals by repurposing surgical material already available in most hospitals that would otherwise have been discarded. In addition, the International created a website – IATSECares.org – which worked tirelessly to connect members’ needs to resources, produced a “buddy system” where members provided services for others and provided welfare check-ups on members by the more than 2,500 members who signed up as volunteers. ESCA is very proud to have such a dedicated workforce with compassionate leadership as a part of our ESCA family.

The Volunteer of the Year Award, which recognizes one outstanding volunteer for their valuable and selfless commitment to innovation, execution, and enhancement of the ESCA community, went to Brett Mitchell, – General Manager, Overland Park Convention Center.

Brett has been an incredible volunteer as the Venue and Management Council chair over the past year, a member of ESCA‘s Health and Safety Committee, and a key organizer in ESCA‘s ALL IN campaign. Brett’s broad industry focus and wealth of knowledge help ESCA and other industry key associations move our industry initiatives forward. He always goes above and beyond, doing everything he can for ESCA and our industry.

Outstanding Service Awards go to individuals who made measurable or generally recognizable contributions to the industry during the past year. This year, the awards went to Mark Staples, President / CEO of American Exposition Services; Tommy Blitsch, Secretary-Treasurer / Principal Officer of International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 631; and Employco.

Mark Staples actively sought ways to support vendors, customers, and employees in our industry. He is honest, innovative, and one of the “best people in the biz.” Mark always puts the well-being of his staff and customers above all while exemplifying the ESCA values. As a shining example of a pillar of our industry, ESCA is honored to award Mark an Outstanding Service Award.

Tommy Blitsch is awarded ESCA’s Outstanding service award for his advocacy efforts. He spent numerous hours working with the Las Vegas industry, county officials, and local politicians. This type of advocacy is hard work and often goes unnoticed. We want to acknowledge his efforts and thank him for being a champion for our industry with this award.

Employco is deserving of this special recognition for the hard work and dedication the organization has demonstrated, both educating the industry and offering to help anyone that needed guidance in the face of industry turned upside down. They put together multiple free webinars not just for ESCA’s clients but also for any small business who needed advice on various topics, including COVID-19, HR issues, PPP updates, reopening best practices, and more. This organization is the perfect example of providing outstanding service and is well-deserving of being recognized by ESCA by being awarded the Outstanding Service Award.

The high honor of the President’s Award is awarded exclusively by ESCA‘s President to recognize service to our industry that is above and beyond. This year, it went to Randy Pekowski, President and COO of The Expo Group.

During this crucial time, Randy’s dedication, leadership, and guidance were vital in driving ESCA‘s and our industry’s need to get back to business. Randy donated his company’s resources for ESCA‘s All In campaign, gave selflessly of his time, and provided levelheaded leadership during a challenging time for our industry. ESCA is thrilled to have him on our 2021 Board of Directors and excited to see how he helps to sculpt our association and this industry in the future. Randy has won ESCA’s prestigious President’s Award for this and so much more.




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