Photos by Animal Photography
“The classes, the people, the vendors…my head is still spinning trying to absorb everything,” exclaims first–time attendee Kristie Overfield. “I met the most amazing groomers and business owners, all with different tricks, tips, and ideas, but sharing a common message: You can do it! It was so empowering!
“The classes were outstanding and I learned so much. Things I would never learn if it hadn’t been for this show,” Kristie continues. “The vendors went out of their way to talk to me about things because I am so green in this field and had so many questions. My heart is so full today, knowing I went to Groom Expo alone but left with friends across the country and a newly–found confidence I did not have before,” Kristie shares.
Kristie Overfield was one of the over 5,000 pet professionals who flocked to the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center last September to experience Groom Expo and all it had to offer. And just like Kristie, who was hungry for knowledge and for ways to improve her skills, every person came to the expo with needs that they hoped to fill. For many of the attendees, it had been two long years since they had been able to attend a show in person.
“It’s good to be back,” says attendee Lorrie Lanzendorfer emphatically. “Attending the online shows during the pandemic was great, but there is nothing like being in a room where every single person has the same passion you do. It energizes and fills you with renewed passion for the industry.”
That passion was evident from the moment the expo opened. Groomers filled with excitement, anticipation and the joy of being back picked up their registration packets and headed off to the day–long seminars held on Thursday and Friday.
Throughout the weekend, top industry experts presented seminars covering topics including business, mobile grooming, groomer health, client control, cat grooming and much, much more. And, there were countless breed grooming and creative coloring demonstrations. Many of the rooms were filled to capacity with attendees eager to learn and to hone their skills.
Mobile groomer Megan Pearson and her trainee, Kevin Perkins, came from Utah to attend Groom Expo. It was their first time at the expo and it was a bit more challenging for Megan and Kevin than most as they are both hearing impaired and needed an interpreter to assist them in the classes they were taking.
“I had to set up everything in advance, and then tell Barkleigh what classes we wanted to take so the interpreters could be scheduled,” Megan shares. “It is not always easy to follow what the speaker is demonstrating and also watch the interpreter.
“It’s been exciting to be at Hershey,” Megan continues. “I came to take classes and continue my education. I also wanted to learn new techniques and tricks, meet people, and network with other groomers. It’s been great. We will definitely be back.”
After absorbing as much of the seminar information as they could, it was time for the attendees to take a bit of a break.
“On Thursday night at Hershey, I went to sit down at the bar where they had this infamous chocolate martini,” says Anneli Burke, a groomer from the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area. “I find and sit down with Corina Stammworthy, whom I’m possibly the biggest fangirl for ever, because she’s the absolute nicest. And I think I said something about Pittsburgh being a short drive, and the person next to me says, ‘Oh, you’re from Pittsburgh? Nice! Yinzer!’ and he shakes my hand and says ‘Hi, I’m Chris, I’m also from Pittsburgh.’ It was Chris Kirkpatrick of NSYNC! He said he was at Groom Expo with his friend Josh who had the Houndsly USA booth, and that he would also be at the opening night 90’s party…and he was,” Anneli explains enthusiastically.
The Groom Sync 90’s–themed party was amazing! Chris Kirkpatrick was there along with some of the stars from ABC’s Pooch Perfect TV show. The ballroom was packed with groomers who were happy to be back and more than ready to laugh, dance and party. Throughout the evening everyone had the opportunity to get photos of themselves with the celebrities.
The industry’s biggest and sweetest trade show opened its doors on Friday. Lists in hand, eager shoppers went in search of new tools, equipment, products and bargains. The vendors welcomed them with open arms and fabulous show specials.
“We have been making the pilgrimage to Groom Expo for nearly three decades,” says Dave Campanella of Best Shot Pet Products. “The trade show is full and thriving, and the people are enthusiastic. We’re going to have a record show!”
“We are so, so happy to be back, and Groom Expo has been phenomenal for us!” says Lynne Allen of Tool Klean. “We sold out of everything the very first day and took orders all the rest of the weekend.”
In addition to shopping and maxing out a few of their credit cards, the attendees opened their hearts and wallets to help some very worthwhile causes. One of the fundraising events was The Internet Social which was hosted by Jameson and Milena Kon.
“We took the Internet Mingle that Dawn Omboy first introduced us to in 2018, and made it into an event where we can collect donations from generous vendors,” share Milena and Jameson. “Then we raffle those amazing items out to groomers and gather those funds and donate it each year to a special cause. This year, we were able to send $1,070 to the family of Amanda Fouche and $1,070 to Nicole McColgan–Tiller.”
Every year the Silent Auction is headed by Michelle Prince Semken and Mary Jo Noll–Vaskorlis. They work tirelessly throughout the year to gather unique items for the auction and also collect donations from vendors and groomers. This year, they raised an astounding $13,378. The money is divided among the rescue organizations that provide dogs for the Rescue Roundup grooming competitions.
And, speaking of competitions, the Wahl GroomOlympics tournaments were held throughout Friday and Saturday, and Groomer TV covered them all. It was absolutely amazing to be able to sit in the audience and watch the contestants as they transformed their dogs into stunning masterpieces. With the help of Groomer TV, everyone in the audience, and those watching online, were able to see close–ups of the techniques, tools and products the competitors used in the ring. A prize of $25,000 was at stake, and the winners of each tournament would go head–to–head to vie for the title of “Best In Show.”
Saturday was packed with seminars, competitions, the bustling trade show, Silent Auction and so much more—including the prestigious Barkleigh Honors Awards. The chefs at the Hershey Lodge have won many awards of their own, and the spectacular banquet they prepared set the tone for the Saturday evening festivities.
Immediately after the dinner, each of the GroomOlympics tournament winners paraded their first–place dog down the runway. The judges examined them one final time before making their decision. The 2021 “Best In Show” trophy was awarded to Lis Johnston and her flawless Scottie, Sean Connery.
The Best In Show Award was followed by the E–Z Groom Creative Abstract Runway Competition. One after another, the spectacularly–coiffed pooches and dressed–to–impress groomers strutted their stuff on the runway. Every entry looked stunning as the stylists presented their original designs to the judge. The ballroom erupted with loud applause and shrieks of joy as Leslie Waldrep was announced as the first place winner.
The highly–anticipated Barkleigh Honors Awards were next on the docket. Awards in more than twenty categories, from “Up and Coming Groomer of The Year” to “Educational Video of The Year” to “Contribution to The Industry,” were presented. The Barkleigh Honors Award for “New Product of The Year” went to the Trach Saver by All For Groomers. Owners Tommy Stockstill and Kemlyn Block–Stockstill came to the podium to accept their award.
“I made the first Trach Saver for my wife, Kemlyn, and a little poodle who had a horrible trachea problem,” said Tommy. “We were hoping to help a lot of dogs with this product, and to make the groomer’s life easier and the pet safer. To win this honor is above and beyond anything we expected!”
The dogs that were in the Davis Rescue Roundup Competition on Sunday morning probably didn’t know what to expect either, but for many of them, it was their lucky day. Since the inception of the Rescue Roundup, almost every dog that has received a makeover in the ring has found its forever home. That makes every pup in the competition a real winner!
On Sunday afternoon, the Andis Creative Styling Competition transformed the competition ring into a place where fairytales come to life and dreams can come true. This is always a must–see event that often has a standing–room–only audience. Months of planning and preparation go into the designs, color choices and execution of the entries.
From the moment the nine amazingly–talented contestants entered the ring, the audience was spellbound. They watched as the artists sculpted, scissored and transformed their colorful living canvases into incredible works of art. Pink Panthers, playful dolphins, magical unicorns, fierce tigers and more emerged from the mounds of hair and came to life on the stage before the mesmerized audience’s eyes.
As always, “The People’s Choice” award–winner was chosen by the applause and cheers of the audience members. The winner of this coveted award is featured on a cover of Groomer To Groomer Magazine. The convention center’s walls reverberated with thunderous applause and wild cheers for the crowd’s favorite entry. Their enthusiastic approval of Alyssa Kasiba’s entry, Sailor Moon, left no doubt who the “People’s Choice” was. So, keep your eyes peeled for Alyssa and her gorgeous poodle, Ditto, on an upcoming cover.
The first place winner of the Andis Creative Styling Competition was a thrilled Leslie Waldrep who said, “What an AMAZING weekend at Groom Expo! Rhyme and I won first place in Creative Abstract Runway, and Secret and I won first in Open Creative with our Cinderella design, achieving an undefeated year at all the shows we attended. Words cannot begin to express how grateful, humbled, and blessed I feel.”
Leslie wasn’t the only one who had a great weekend at the expo. Just by observing the camaraderie of the attendees and the amazing energy of the show, it was evident that there’s nothing that can replace the experience of actually being at Groom Expo.
“I didn’t realize how much I actually missed going to trade shows until I was back,” shares Erin Berner. “Yes, it’s crazy busy, and I’m exhausted, but there is just something about being in a place that is 100% about your passion. I learned new things, and I got to meet up with old friends and make new ones. From the classes to the vendors, every single person is there for the same reason—our love for dogs.”
“That’s so true,” agrees Krista Creekpaum emphatically. “I really missed Groom Expo and everyone and everything that is a part of it. It’s good to be back. Oh yes! So good to be back!” ✂️