After a three-year hiatus, Dan Holohan resurrected his “Wetstock” gathering of hydronic heating buffs in Denver April 12, drawing 205 participants and, for the first time, 18 exhibitors.
The Wetstock term was coined by Holohan in reference to the 1960s hippie music festival at Woodstock, with its emblematic themes of love, peace and community. It is a networking event bringing together a community of hydronic and especially radiant heating enthusiasts, spanning the entire supply chain of manufacturers, distributors, contractors, reps and engineers. Most participants are regular visitors to “The Wall” - a hydronic heating forum that is one of the most popular features of Holohan’s Web site at www.heatinghelp.com. (Hit the “Questions” link on the menu bar atop the lead page if you want to check it out.)
Holohan attempted to establish a semblance of order by selecting 20 topics for discussion at different tables. The list included a variety of technical (radiant controls, system treatment and cleaning, etc.) and business issues (overcoming price objections, hiring and training, etc.). The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics held sway, however, as most participants mingled in disorderly fashion around the exhibitor booths that had a steady flow of traffic throughout the day.
“What I think is significant about Wetstock is that it demonstrates the power of a peer group that is let loose to share, without parliamentary procedure, moderators or time limits,” Holohan says.
“Having the stimulus of the manufacturers’ products at Wetstock 2008 raised the energy to an even higher level,” he adds. “The Wetheads had hours to focus on these interesting products, concepts and techniques, and then to sit and share thoughts with each other. It was wonderful to see how much feedback the Wetheads gave to the manufacturers. This is not like a trade show, where people flow by the booths like a river, and are often overwhelmed by too much stimulus. Wetstock focuses the energy of the group like a magnifying glass. Everyone is in one big room, and for a very long time.”
As the day wore on, people drifted to certain tables for some like-minded conversations, although this interloper noticed a tendency to stray from the designated topic before many minutes passed. Two notable exceptions stood out.
One was a table devoted to discussion of solar-related topics, whose chairs were filled almost the entire day with solar buffs staying largely on message. Another perpetually crowded table was titled, “The House on Hummingbird Hill,” hosted by contractor and water heating expert Larry Weingarten. He and wife Suzanne built their ultra-efficient home in Salinas, Calif., entirely off the electrical grid and were featured in a July 5, 2007, New York Times article. (You can access the article by visiting www.nytimes.com and doing an archive search on Larry Weingarten.)
Charitable EventWetstock ’08 was a charitable event that ended up raising some $15,000 for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Funds came from event ticket and booth sales, plus a silent auction and raffle.
“It’s gratifying to be able to do this as a fundraiser for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation,” Holohan says. “In every career, there’s a time to learn, a time to earn, and time to give back. I believe that when people work toward a selfless common goal such as raising money for breast cancer research, they put aside pettiness, politics and other things that often tear apart associations. This is how we build community. This is how we get things done. And all while having a mighty fine time!”
Before its three-year hiatus, Holohan used to host several Wetstock gatherings each year. That proved to be too much and attendance began lagging. He told us he’s now planning to schedule them on an every-other-year basis.
For more information on the Susan G. Komen For the Cure Breast Cancer Foundation, go to www.Komen.org.