If it had anything to do with radiant heating, it was at the 2000 Radiant Celebration sponsored by the Radiant Panel Association in Providence, R.I. The Rhode Island Convention Center bustled with radiant activity May 11-13. Almost 1,500 contractors, distributors, sales reps and manufacturers attended the event over the three days.

Thursday was a day of concentrated training. More than 250 people attended one of the four all-day training sessions offered. Those who attended Ellen Rohr's energy-packed "Where Did The Money Go?" seminar came away raving about how much useful, down-to-earth information they had learned. John Siegenthaler packed the house again, this year with the new RPA's Advanced Controls course. Mark Eatherton bravely persevered through bad weather, canceled flights and no sleep to arrive in the nick of time to conduct the Radiant Basic course to a full house. Running on adrenaline, Mark did a great job of presenting this course to an appreciative audience. Clay Thornton and Ken Barney conducted a new course for those with an interest, but no real experience, in entering the radiant field. It was a perfect match of basic information and useful tips.

The three-day Trade Show opened its doors to an enthusiastic crowd Thursday evening. With 140 booths representing 110 exhibitors, there wasn't much left to the imagination. Everything from boilers to slab insulation was present. At center stage were three new attractions. The RPA's annual System Showcase had a new pavilion complete with video monitors displaying the finalists from each category. At the four corners were booths where each of the submitting companies presented their competing project to the trade show attendees.

A big attraction on the trade show floor was the Workshop. This was a mockup residential structure where tube was stapled up and down, pre-fab radiant floors installed, radiators and controls hung and gypsum floor poured. Hydronic and electric systems were installed as the tradeshow crowd gathered around to watch and participate. A special thanks goes to Taco for sponsoring the Workshop and taking on the task of coordinating with Cranston Area Career and Technical Center to have it built and erected on site.

Throughout the three days, RPA Chapters sponsored games, such as the Timed Tube Tie Down by the Eastern Michigan Chapter, guessing games from the Utah Chapter and even a horse race sponsored by the Windy City Chapter, each with great prizes provided by the exhibitors. Some could spin wire ties down like an assembly line machine while others struggled to just get the tool through the loops in the tube-tying game. Ticket holders whistled and hollered as their horse approached the finish line. Don D'Agistino did a great job announcing the horse races.

A great lineup of seminars and panel discussions were presented Thursday and Friday. Many said they were the best yet. Topics covered everything from basic electric controls to commercial installations. Successful contractors shared their marketing secrets and editors of several leading trade magazines discussed what it takes to get publicity. There was even a session on successfully marketing your business on the Internet.

Also, you could learn how to retrofit a home, install insulation, design integrated systems, explore heated walls and ceilings, find alternative ways to cool, learn heat loss calculations and find out what radiant contractors are doing outside the United States. The biggest problem was fitting it all in. There certainly was not a lack of things to see and do.

Rich Trethewey, plumbing and heating expert on "This Old House," gave a rousing talk to Friday's General Assembly. He brought a montage of video clips from the program's past episodes featuring radiant heating. The packed house applauded time and time again as Rich struck home on important issues facing the radiant industry today and in the future. His approach of accepting that there are many "truths" in our industry instead of just "one way" of doing things was refreshing. Diversity is one of the things that make the industry interesting. He did say, however, that the future of the industry hinges on the development of "plug-and-play" technologies that have been so successful in the computer market. Future serviceability and standardized replacement parts need to replace custom, one-of-a-kind, systems.

System Showcase trophies and plaques were awarded along with PM's Publisher's Choice Awards at the Friday night awards dinner. This year had an international flavor with projects from Spain and Columbia in contention, including a project from Jordan that won Best of Show.

The last item on the agenda was "Thanks For The Tip," sponsored by Wirsbo and PM, which gave away $1,000, $50 at a time for the best tips. It was a fitting reward for those who stayed to the end.

All in all, it was another great conference where friends met and learned. By all accounts, it was the largest and best yet. Next year, it will be held in the brand-new Grand America Hotel and Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, May 10-12. Keep an eye on the RPA's Web site at www.rpa-info.com for details.