ESCA Celebrates 2023 Award Winners and Larry Arnaudet’s Retirement in Dallas

December 12, 2023

Held in conjunction with the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) Expo! Expo! Annual Meeting & Exhibition, the Exhibition Services and Contractors Association hosted its Winter Celebration and Awards on Dec. 4 at the House of Blues in Dallas. ESCA announced its 2023 Award Winners, surprising former Fern CEO Aaron Bludworth with the ESCA Lifetime Achievement Award.

This year’s ESCA President Damon Ross, who serves as senior group vice president for CORT Events, officially handed over the association’s leadership to 2024 ESCA President Taylor Vriens, who serves as president of Modern Expo & Events

ESCA Awards

Unique to this year’s celebration, ESCA honored its retiring executive director Larry Arnaudet, who has served in that role since 2006 and began his professional journey in 1970 with Manncraft Exhibitors Services in New Orleans. Industry colleagues and friends — such as Bludworth, Freeman Chairman Emeritus Don Freeman and MGM Resorts International Executive Director, Citywide Sales Steve Walker — toasted and roasted Arnaudet, sharing stories about his 53 years in the industry. Arnaudet, who announced his retirement in July, took his final bow on the House of Blues stage, singing “Friends in Low Places” by Garth Brooks.


ESCA Director of Operations Julie Kagy, who will officially take over as executive director on Jan. 1., saluted and thanked Arnaudet, her boss and mentor.


Here’s a complete list of the 2023 ESCA Winter Awards, as well as a few highlights of what we saw and heard at the celebration in Dallas.


ESCA Awards

Bludworth’s career in the exhibition industry spans three decades, a testament to his enduring passion and dedication. His journey began at Modern Exposition Services in Salt Lake City and culminated in his assumption of the role of CEO and president at Fern Expo in 2008. 

“Aaron's journey is a tapestry woven with leadership, innovation, advocacy and a profound commitment to giving back,” Arnaudet said. “His impact on the exhibition industry is not just about business success; it is about shaping a future where collaboration, technology and community engagement are at the forefront. He stands as a truly outstanding recipient of the ESCA Lifetime Achievement Award.”


ESCA Awards

“Karen has consistently been a beacon of leadership, tirelessly advocating for ESCA's mission,” Kagy said. “This year, Karen’s commitment reached new heights as she actively engaged with venues for the ESCA badge program. Her insights and hands-on involvement not only streamlined operations but also ensured the growth and sustainability of the program. Karen’s dedication and efforts have become a driving force behind the success of ESCA's initiatives.”


“Tammy's prowess in marketing is nothing short of exceptional, evident in her ability to craft and execute innovative campaigns that have redefined SEC event marketing,” said Ross. “Tammy's contributions extend far beyond the confines of conventional marketing. She has been a force in fostering thought leadership, spearheading the development of new awards and launching innovative programs that inject a dynamic and forward-thinking edge into ESCA’s marketing strategies. Tammy’s passion, creativity and commitment have set a shining example for all of us.”


“Aluvision's Hi-LED 55+ tile not only translates into significant cost savings but also minimizes storage requirements for exhibit design firms and AV companies alike by allowing for multiple setups from a single tile,” according to ESCA officials. “Aluvision's Hi-LED 55+ is a game-changer, bringing with it a higher return on investment, an extended product lifespan and a more efficient use of resources. We stand in admiration of Aluvision's remarkable contribution to the field.”


“IT Studio Design has become architects of a more inclusive stage, where diverse voices resonate and flourish. One shining example of their commitment is their impactful partnership with TFO Canada, a non-profit organization dedicated to implementing the Women in Trade for Inclusive and Sustainable Growth (WIT) project in 24 developing countries globally,” according to ESCA officials. “This visionary initiative focuses on increasing women's participation in international trade and promoting the growth of women-led Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). IT Studio Design played a pivotal role in supporting TFO Canada's mission, particularly in the design and construction of country pavilions. This contribution has been instrumental in facilitating market access for women-led SMEs, showcasing how design and inclusivity can come together to create tangible opportunities.”

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