This Just In

Industry’s Supply Side Innovators Shine with 2021 ESCA Awards

Andrea Doyle, Executive Editor

PHILADELPHIA – The Exhibition Services & Contractors Association (ESCA) honored its 2021 award winners in Philadelphia on the eve of IAEE’s Expo! Expo!.

Industry pioneers and leaders who inspire, innovate and have risen to the challenge to serve their customers, community and the exhibition industry were recognized.

The 2021 Innovation Award that recognizes individuals or organizations that have implemented innovative and creative industry solutions and applications was bestowed upon Fern for its Fern Health Check, and BeMatrix for its pop-IN and pop-OUT.

Fern partnered with ShareMyHealth to offer Health Care Testing and Technology. Fern HealthCheck has enabled dozens of events and tens of thousands of attendees to return to the trade show floor safely through vaccine and testing verification solutions, as well as on-site PCR and antigen testing.

According to Fern, this offering was not about revenue generation but about helping the trade show industry.

BeMatrix earned the 2021 Innovation Award for shifting its focus from exhibit building to live communication during the pandemic.

As part of this shift, BeMatrix 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

The Humanitarian Award, given 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 and demonstrating significant leadership and outstanding humanitarian volunteer accomplishments that bring honor to the industry, was given to I.A.T.S.E. – International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees and Motion Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States.

During the pandemic, the women, men and kin from hundreds of IATSE Locals across the U.S. and Canada participated in creating PPE for hospitals, essential workers, retail employees, and assisted living and homeless centers. 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 – – which worked tirelessly to connect members’ needs to resources, produced a “buddy system” through which members provided services for others, and provided welfare check-ups on members by the more than 2,500 members who signed up as volunteers.

Brett Michael receiving Volunteer of the Year

The Volunteer of the Year Award, recognizing one outstanding volunteer for their valuable and selfless commitment to innovation, execution and enhancement of the ESCA community, was given to Brett Mitchell, General Manager, Overland Park Convention Center. He volunteered in 2021 as Venue and Management Council chair, a member of ESCA’s Health and Safety Committee, and a key organizer in ESCA’s ALL IN campaign.

Outstanding Service Awards that recognize an individual who made measurable and recognizable contributions to the industry were given to Mark Staples, President/CEO, American Exposition Services and Tommy Blitsch, Secretary-Treasurer/Principal Officer, International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 631.

Staples actively sought ways to support vendors, customers and employees in the industry. He always puts the well-being of his staff and customers above all while exemplifying the ESCA values.

Blitsch was recognized for his advocacy efforts, working many hours with the Las Vegas industry, county officials and local politicians as he served as a champion for the industry.

Employco was also awarded for outstanding service for its efforts educating the industry and offering to help anyone that needed it during the pandemic. 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 and reopening best practices.

The President’s Award, given by ESCA’s President to recognize service that goes above and beyond, was given to Randy Pekowski, President and COO, The Expo Group. Pekowski’s dedication, leadership and guidance were vital to getting ESCA and the industry back to business. He donated his company’s resources for ESCA’s All In campaign, gave selflessly of his time and provided level-headed leadership during a challenging time for the industry.


Reach Julie Kagy at or (773) 418-1955



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