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Digging the Scene

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WaterShapes LogotypeEric Herman

You never know where and when a good time will unfold.

That thought certainly crossed my mind late in July, when I attended “The World’s Most Extreme Pond Build” at Aquascape’s headquarters in St. Charles, Ill. That company, which manufactures a variety of pond, stream and waterfall systems and accessories, has been remarkably successful through the past decade: In that span, it’s built a

nationwide network of pond installers and has won praise for its extensive dealer training and support programs and the bold ways in which it markets its wares.

The company’s founder, Greg Wittstock (also known as “The Pond Guy”), is definitely one of watershaping’s more dynamic characters. His personal style is based on unbridaled enthusiasm amped up by a dose of machismo that’s hard to miss if you’ve ever encountered him personally or gotten involved with any of his company’s programs.

Greg personally asked me to attend the July event, promising that I would not be disappointed. I didn’t quite know what to expect, but I was intrigued by the audacity of the notion of witnessing a pond-construction project billed as the world’s most extreme – and, frankly, was more than a bit skeptical at the same time.

My doubts soon disappeared: What I encountered was a gathering of more than 600 of Aquscape’s registered dealers bent on completion of a watershape that definitely qualified as extreme – basically a pond on steroids. Within three days, these volunteers installed a composition complete with a rock grotto, various cascades and streams, a simulated wetland area, stone ledger work, diving rocks, an underwater swimming cave, a series of circular decks, one of the company’s new rainwater-harvesting systems and much, much more.

As this all came together, what impressed me most was the energy that permeated the muggy summer air. Day and night, the construction site resembled nothing so much as a giant ant hill, with teams of pond people working feverishly to complete their assigned tasks. And as though that wasn’t enough, there were also educational seminars running for the duration, with vendor displays, great food, local pond tours and music to keep the event from seeming too much like a day at work back home.

It was, in a word, fun – a riotous display of how much people can, under the right circumstances, enjoy the physical effort of digging in the dirt and moving boulders.

To me, the story has a simple moral: Watershaping has always been about generating fun and enjoyment for clients, but as an industry we’ve never been all that successful in articulating or embracing that underlying spirit for ourselves. Over and over again during this event, however, I spoke with people who simply love what they do and are delighted by the ability it gives them to bring joy to their clients’ lives.

It’s a bold, enthusiastic approach – and it’s infectious: I had a great time, met scores of terrific people and, perhaps most important, came away with a renewed appreciation for just how powerful the pleasures of watershaping can be.

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