The Backstory

A view of the Annual Convention from GAWDA’s President and First Lady

This area of the Phoenician lawn will be filled with light and laughter on the opening night of the Annual Convention as GAWDA members and guests meet up with friends and colleagues in their comfortable shoes.

Believe it or not, one of the biggest criticisms we receive every year about the Annual Convention is that we didn’t tell people what to wear! There even has been discussion in the board room over this conundrum.

So this year, I am setting the record straight early, and what better place to talk about it than in this issue of Welding & Gases Today, which previews GAWDA’s Annual Convention. I’ve invited my wife Terri to share this column with me. Traditionally, the president’s spouse handles much of the event planning, including food menus, tour schedules, social events, even speaker vetting with the Convention Planning Committee made up of distributors and suppliers, along with their spouses.

Choosing a site to hold GAWDA’s Annual Convention requires much thought. There must be a hotel big enough to hold up to 1,000 attendees. The cost of a room should be reasonable. There must be exhibit space large enough for the Contact Booth Program—this is not easy to find. We read and re-read the comments and suggestions on the surveys, and every year try to improve. This year, it’s getting the word out about the dress code. Yes, the dress code.

Some of you reading this are probably chuckling right now. Hopefully, the rest of you are quietly thanking me for taking on the topic. So here it is…BUSINESS CASUAL. Google defines “business casual” as “an ambiguously defined dress code. It entails neat yet informal attire and is generally more casual than informal business attire, but is more formal than casual.”

Both the opening and closing receptions will be held onsite and outdoors. The President’s Opening Reception will be on the Phoenician’s patio and east lawn and the attire is business casual. While there are brick walkways, most of the event is on grass, which may dictate your shoe choice, especially ladies.

It’s Southwestern dirt and dancin’ at the Closing Gala, held outside at the Jokeke Inn on the grounds of the Phoenician. Bring your boots, bolos, hats, buckles and spurs, but leave the dress shoes behind.

The President’s Gala will take place outdoors at the Jokake Inn, a rustic adobe structure set on an acre of natural terrain at the Phoenician. Our theme is “Southwestern” so that means western jeans, boots, buckles, hats, scarves, bolo ties—if you have them. If not, business casual.

If you are one of those couples where the spouse shops for your clothes and packs the suitcase, do yourself a favor. Tell her or him: Business Casual. Southwestern for President’s Gala. Better yet, rip this page out of the magazine and hand it to your spouse. Or, right now, text your spouse a link to where he or she can read this column. Don’t say you weren’t warned!

When I was in junior high, I came to New Mexico from New York in the summer and worked with my grandfather near the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation. The Indians taught me a lot about the land, the animals and the serenity of the natural surroundings. I fell in love with the desert, the quiet, the strength, and the culture. GAWDA has never held an Annual Convention in Arizona, and I’m glad we will be there to experience the beauty of this area.

Terri and I looked long and hard to find two recipients for this year’s GAWDA Gives Back donation. We wanted organizations that help children, and have little or no outside donations other than what they generate themselves. In other words, they really need GAWDA members’ generosity. We chose Ryan House and Camp Soaring Eagle, two very-deserving local organizations.

We received many positive comments about the inclusion of the young professionals at the Spring Management Conference, as well as the new format for the First Timers Reception. One of my goals this year is to break down the barriers that our association’s young people have been feeling. They told us they felt separated from the more “seasoned” members, reluctant to interact, and left out of some of the association’s work. GAWDA’s young professionals are a bright, energetic, amazing group of men and women, with much to offer. They were front and center at the SMC, helping to plan some of the events. Introduce yourself in Scottsdale to a young professional you don’t know. Young professionals, introduce yourselves to a seasoned member. Together, we want to do good things for our industry and association.

Plans for the Annual Convention are being finalized. Contact Booth Exhibitors are bringing their best to Scottsdale. The speakers and events are detailed in this issue starting on page 84. The Scottsdale area is rich in things to do and see. When you receive the brochure and registration information, take a moment to make your plans. And don’t forget to give this column to your spouse, and by all means, get your western wear spiffed and shined.

A Word from GAWDA’s First Lady

I’ve been attending GAWDA’s Annual Conventions since Tom and I were first married. My father-in-law, Ken Biedermann, was president of NWSA in 1996-97, and he and my mother-in-law led by example the importance of being involved in the association and networking with industry peers. We’ve made many close friends and business associates over the years as a result.

Tom and I visited Scottsdale several times to find worthy recipients of the GAWDA Gives Back donation. We visited several charities, met with their staffs, and reviewed their plans and financial status. GAWDA provides specific criteria to use when choosing the recipients, and we thought for a long time about which charities should be the recipients of GAWDA members’ generosity. We wanted to make sure that the donations would be put to very good use, and I know GAWDA members will be pleased with the two organizations.

Ryan House is a hospice for children. Having helped my father with his end-of-life journey, I know from experience how emotionally and physically draining it can be to take care of someone at the end of life. Hospice brings much-needed relief and help. Camp Soaring Eagle holds medically supervised camping programs for children with chronic and life-threatening illnesses, and provides hospice care when needed. Their motto is: “Every Child Deserves a Chance to Laugh, Play and Just be a Kid.” It was pretty powerful to see kids with serious illnesses running and laughing and playing together. They weren’t outcasts because they are different or can’t keep up with healthier children. With the GAWDA Gives Back donation, more children will get that chance to laugh and just be a kid for a while.

Scottsdale is a beautiful city with many things to see and do. There are tours of the local area, golf courses, a hotel spa and shopping. While all of this is wonderful, I encourage spouses to attend the business meetings at the convention. I’ve always enjoyed the general session meetings, as they are an opportunity to hear professionals speak on many different topics. I recall a speaker from whom I learned information about developing criteria for hiring. I used that information to hire contractors to work in our home, which made the process much easier.

We look forward to meeting GAWDA members in Scottsdale. By design, the President’s Gala is the outgoing president’s farewell party. To pay homage to our beautiful setting, our theme is the “Southwest” so feel free to wear your southwestern clothes. Ladies, closed toe, flat shoes may be more comfortable. Gentlemen, if you are reading this, please make sure your wife knows this.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association
Meet the Author
GAWDA President Thomas A. Biedermann is vice president of Airweld, Inc. and can be reached by email at or by phone at 631-227-3219. Terri Biedermann, a strong supporter of the gases and welding industry, attended her first Annual Convention in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1992.