As the saying goes, “Everything is bigger in Texas.” From Feb. 24-26, held at the Arlington Convention Center in Arlington, Texas, the 2019 Southwest Car Wash Association (SCWA) Convention & EXPO continued to build on its impressive program. In addition to a Schedule of Events that was packed with educational sessions — on and off the show floors — and expo hours, the event included several go-big-or-go-home moments, such as the Keynote Address, delivered by FOX News star Dana Perino, and the Celebrate SCWA Evening Event.

This year’s SCWA Convention & EXPO kicked off on Feb. 24th at 10:30 a.m. with a motivational session, which was a new addition to the program this year. Two hours after the start of that session, the association rolled out the red carpet for its first high-profile speaker. The CEO Forum presentation was delivered by Michael Dominguez, senior vice president and chief sales officer for MGM Resorts International. Dominguez shared his experiences in business with the audience as well as predictions for 2019 and beyond.

Following the CEO Forum, from 2 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., attendees flooded the exhibition halls, and exhibitors stayed busy throughout the expo hours, demonstrating and discussing the benefits of their products, equipment lines and solutions.

On Feb. 25th, the event offered a comprehensive morning program for early birds eager to prioritize education over sleeping late. Starting at 7 a.m. with a Continental Breakfast and State Discussion Tables, the early morning start also included such educational sessions as Car Wash Investor Basics, Fast Tracks discussion tables and Idea Exchange Sessions.

After a brief break, the General Session commenced. SCWA President Tyler Furney once again welcomed attendees to the event and, reflecting back on 2018, thanked everyone in the room for another great year in carwashing.

“It’s been a great show so far, and we have more to come,” said Furney, who followed those remarks by thanking the SCWA Board of Directors as well as the event’s sponsors. “It’s been a pleasure to serve as [the association’s] president this year, and it’s been a great year for carwashing. Everyone in this room … you are what make this country great. Thank you for taking the time to be here.”

Following Furney’s remarks was the 2019 SCWA Lifetime Achievement Award Presentation. The association honored one of our industry’s leading pioneers, Ben Alford, who has been recognized by this publication in past issues as the visionary who played an instrumental role in developing the modern express exterior format back in 2001. Alford is the owner of Benny’s Car Wash & Oil Change in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

How do you describe someone who is worthy of this association’s highest honor, which is awarded based on the individual’s lifetime of dedication, commitment and significant achievements in the carwash industry?

Well, Alford’s colleagues, employees and family members found the right words to use during a short video montage that was played prior to handing over the award.

High praises, such as “there’s no better mentor,” “industry pioneer,” “one of the people I respect the most” and “the best dad in the world,” were bestowed by the people in the video who have been most impacted by Alford.

In the video tribute, Alford himself noted that his biggest accomplishment has been that the younger generations of his family are interested in being involved in the carwash business. The humble Alford then accepted the prestigious award saying, “It means a lot to be honored by your peers and especially from the SCWA — these are good people.”

Following the award presentation, the self-noted diminutive and personality-filled Perino stood tall to deliver an engaging Keynote Address to a large, packed room that was filled with carwash professionals. Perino shared humorous stories and passed along humbling life lessons that she learned throughout her impressive career on television and in the government, which included serving as the first Republican woman to be press secretary of the U.S. under former President George W. Bush.

The Keynote Address was followed by another planned, brief break. Then, the expo floors opened at 1 p.m. as over 2,100 attendees packed the halls filled with 325 exhibitor booths.

On Monday night, attendees and exhibitors were treated to an entertaining evening at the Celebrate SCWA Evening Event. A brief reception took place at the Sheraton Hotel, and then registrants were escorted by trolley to a local, expansive facility: the Texas Live! Arena, where friendly competition, relaxation and fun emerged.

The 2019 SCWA Convention & EXPO concluded on Tuesday, Feb. 26th with an extensive program of educational sessions until the 2019 Closing Luncheon at 12:15 p.m., which is when the introduction of the 2019-2020 SCWA officers and directors were appointed.

While the SCWA planners were able to successfully achieve another “wow” factor event this year, the attendees also added an important element and, in many ways, they are what make these regional and national carwash shows special.

In other industries that I have covered in my 19-year career as a business-to-business editor and writer, the vast majority of trade show attendees use the “break” time in between expo hours and educational sessions to unwind, check email, make phone calls, etc.; however, carwash professionals use these opportunities to connect and share ideas.

Sitting in the hotel lobby after the Keynote Address prior to the expo opening, I witnessed once again the natural occurrence of operators pairing up or gathering in groups without egos, agendas or anything in mind other than helping each other out. That, to me, is where the magic happens — and these moments occur throughout all carwash events.

This industry is truly blessed with wonderful individuals who are passionate about carwashing and advancing the professionalism of this entire industry.

Thank you to the SCWA and its organizers for another memorable event, and thank you to all carwash professionals who make our industry better each and every day. As announced at this year’s event, the 2020 SCWA Convention & EXPO is relocating and changing dates and days. Be sure to visit Carwash.com and www.swcarwash.org for more information leading up to the 2020 SCWA Convention & EXPO.