Over the years, thousands of drilling industry professionals have attended the South Atlantic Well Drillers JUBILEE. However, as the years go by, there are younger generations who may not know how this popular industry event started and how it grew into the industry giant it is today.
The “Founding Fathers”. Credit for starting the JUBILEE is due the North Carolina Well Drillers Association, which was founded in 1946. Their early gatherings became the JUBILEE when, in 1954, R.O. Heater, president of the North Carolina Well Drillers Association volunteered to look into having a meeting that would attract wider participation at a meeting and trade show than just the North Carolina group. He proclaimed it would be “a JUBILEE where people could go and enjoy themselves, where wives and children would be included, and there would be no long convention speeches.” (Worth Pickard, 1986.)
Under Heater’s leadership, and supported by dedicated men like George and Garmon McCall, the first JUBILEE convention and trade show took place in 1954, at Carolina Beach, NC. Approximately 75 drillers attended. An additional 25 attendees represented suppliers and manufacturers.
The Early Years. From 1955 to the early 60′s the JUBILEE showed steady growth, with an increase in attendance by drillers from adjoining states. During this time the venue changed from location to location , all in North Carolina. The inclusion of representatives of other states into the planning of the JUBILEE occurred informally and gradually. During the early years, the JUBILEE continued to be sponsored by NCWDA and until it had grown and begun to generate funds, members of the North Carolina Association often reached into their own pockets to provide the “front money” to keep the JUBILEE going.
A Period of Change and Growth. During the 1960′s, the National Water Well Association became more involved in the JUBILEE. In 1965, significant decisions were made by the board. First, they would look for a place to relocate in order to accommodate expected growth; second, they hired a part time person, Gerald Miller, from Drillers Service Inc. (an industry supplier)I to work for the association and the JUBILEE.
In 1968, with many regrets for having to leave the JUBILEE’s birth place, Carolina Beach, the JUBILEE was moved to the Virginia Beach convention center. Many feared that the JUBILEE’s days as a “cozy convention on a quiet beach” were gone. As it turned out, those who predicted significant change were not wrong. In 1969 a committee decided that a JUBILEE Board of Directors would be formed and a non-profit corporation would be established. The board soon decided that hiring paid management would improve both the size and scope of the trade show and the attendance.
The JUBILEE Code. From its beginnings, the JUBILEE provided an opportunity for education, exposure to new and existing technologies and fellowship. The founders believed that the JUBILEE should truly be a family affair. At this time, much of the food for attendees was provided by the “JUBILEE ladies” (drillers’ wives). However, in 1966 Worth Pickard was appointed chairman of the cookout committee. (In 1977, Pickard’s efforts in organizing the cookout were rewarded when the cookout event was named after him.)
In 1970, management was placed in the hands of the National Water Well Association (now the National Ground Water Association), and a JUBILEE Board of Directors was formed. The organization was incorporated in 1974. Over the years, the states of Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia had become more and more involved with planning of the JUBILEE. As a result, the newly created JUBILEE Board was made up of two representatives of each of the states sponsoring the JUBILEE, one supplier and one manufacturer representative, and as a permanent member, George McCall, who was known as “the granddaddy of the JUBILEE”.
In 1970, the JUBILEE moved to its present home at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center. It hosted 1,280 registrants, 72 indoor booths and 16 outdoor exhibits. Also, in 1970, the Maryland/Delaware Water Well Association became a JUBILEE governing state. Over the next years, the Jubilee continued to grow in size and in scope. In 1975, 1,400 people registered for the JUBILEE; in 1980 registration increased to 1,846, with 114 exhibitors. Also in 1980, West Virginia joined the sponsors.
The move to Myrtle Beach helped drive the growth and development of the JUBILEE as a event. The number of attendees as well as exhibitors continued to grow through the 1980′s, and in 1990 the registration count was 2,682. The exhibitor count was 178.
The board focused efforts on meeting the professional challenges faced by private well drillers. Educational offerings at the JUBILEE were increased; and, the number and type of exhibitors was expanded. Demonstrations of equipment and techniques were highlighted. At the same time, the JUBILEE’s scholarship program was expanded. Also, the board supported the development of a number of public education brochures, political action guides and other educational tools for drillers to use. When necessary, the JUBILEE provided funds to the affiliated states for educational and legal activities.
Over time, the JUBILEE has grown and evolved from a small, informal one state get together into the famous industry event that now exists. However, in spite of its growth and the changes in the industry, the JUBILEE still lives up to the founders desire that it bring the well industry together for education, networking and exposure to the newest in industry technologies and services while at the same time remaining a family friendly event.