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ESCA Winter Celebration and Awards Unites Industry Members to Recognize Successes in 2023

ESCA Winter Celebration and Awards Unites Industry Members to Recognize Successes in 2023

DALLAS — The Exhibition Services and Contractors Association (ESCA) celebrated its members’ success and recognized contributions made over the year at the ESCA Winter Celebration & Awards, held at the House of Blues in Dallas on Dec. 4, ahead of the start of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events’ (IAEE) Expo! Expo!.

ESCA’s event served as a gathering place of industry leaders, with 14 past presidents of the association in attendance. The event served as a passing of the torch, with 2023 ESCA President Damon Ross, Senior Group Vice President at CORT Trade Show and Event Furnishings, handing the presidency over to Taylor Vriens, President of Modern Expo & Events.

“It’s been a great team effort,” Ross said of his term. “It’s been an honor to be the ESCA President of 2023; being president has been a 12-journey since I’ve joined ESCA. I believe this year we have made a difference, and it’s been built on the successes and perseverance of the committee, board and committees of the past. And I’d like to personally thank Larry [Arnaudet]. Larry really encouraged me from day one to think bigger of myself and what I could contribute. All of his efforts allowed me, a non-contractor, to become president of ESCA. He got the bylaws changed so this could happen, and as a non-contractor and as a minority, I really appreciate everything he’s done for me.”

The event also served as a celebration for Larry Arnaudet, Executive Director of ESCA, as he retires and hands the reins of ESCA to Julie Kagy, current Director of Operations.

“We’ve come a long way,” Kagy said. “In this room, there are decades and eons of relationships, and it speaks volumes about our tight-knit community because we work in a small world with a big family. And, none of this would be possible without Larry Arnaudet. He’s done everything in the past decade to prepare me for this moment. For me this position carries a lot of weight, I feel the significance of that role. I’m not just thinking about this association right now, I’m thinking about the next 50 years, and our duty to protect the legacy and chart the course, not just for ESCA, but for our industry.”

With more than 50 years in the events and conventions industry, Arnaudet enjoyed an illustrious career, working for powerhouse general service contractors, associations and establishing The Arnaudet Group, LLC. He was recognized with ESCA’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014 for his passion and contributions to the industry and association. Kagy will officially transition into the Executive Director role on Jan. 1, 2024.

“There’s nothing more important than friendship,” Arnaudet said. “If I’m your friend, I’m your friend forever, and I will be there anytime you need me. I am friends with and acknowledge everyone, whether it’s an association executive, venue manager or a member of the cleaning crew. So, thank all of you for your friendship.”

ESCA also announced that 2023 saw the biggest increase in membership in a year, with 30 new members joining the association. A new Diversity and Inclusion Scholarship program was announced, which will be awarded annually alongside the Dennis Hale Memorial Scholarship.

2023 ESCA Award Winners

ESCA awarded Aaron Bludworth, former CEO of Fern, the Lifetime Achievement Award for his leadership, advocacy and innovation over the course of his career. Bludworth served as Fern’s CEO for more than 14 years, where he encouraged the embracing of digital tools and platforms to better serve clients of all sizes. While at Fern, he also emphasized the importance of volunteering by creating a VTO policy, which allowed employees to volunteer and give back to their communities without using their traditional PTO days. His more than 30-year career includes giving back to the industry as well, serving as Chairperson of ESCA and the Center for Exhibition Industry Research.

Other winners of the 2023 ESCA Awards are:

  • Volunteer of the Year: Karen Murphy, Exhibitor Services Senior Specialist, Freeman; Project Manager, ESCA
  • Sales Professional of the Year: Tammy McGlade, Director of Marketing and Customer Success, epIQ
  • Innovation Award: Aluvision
  • Diversity and Inclusion Award: IT Studio Design

Reach Julie Kagy at

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