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When his son passed away on May 1, 2016, the last thing on the mind of Ray Martinez was attending the DJ Expo this year in Atlantic City, N.J. But many people offered their thoughts and prayers to Martinez and his family, and he decided to travel from Goodyear, Ariz., to attend the show after all.

“Emotionally, I didn’t think I was going to attend, but it turned out being the best decision I made,” says Martinez, who has been entertaining as Ray Mar Productions since 1974. “The DJ community is a special group of people, and the support, love, hugs and friendship was just what I needed and they were there to support me.

“Thank you to N.A.M.E. & A.D.J.A., NJDJN and Think Tank, but special thanks to Sean ‘Big Daddy’ McKee, Luke Renchan, Carol Keslar and Heather and Joe Staniszewski for their love and encouragement but mostly a shoulder to cry on. Home is where your friends are and where you need to be.”

While Martinez’s Expo experience was unique, not to mention cathartic, it also speaks to the event’s ability to bring people together. Of course, most jocks coming to DJ Expo were also seeking networking opportunities with like-minded people, though, perhaps for more business-specific goals.

Giveaway Winner: David Lachapelle enjoys the moment. MetroMix Media
Giveaway Winner: David Lachapelle enjoys the moment.

We polled DJs from throughout the country who attended DJ Expo 2016, held this past Aug. 15-18 at the Trump Taj Mahal, asking what they took away from the experience.

Did they learn new tricks? Did they find new friends? New products? New music? New knowledge from a seminar?

Denny McConnell of Music to You Entertainment in Reading, Pa., says he’s attended every DJ Expo in Atlantic City that’s been held, and that he always takes home something he can use to help build his company of 42 years.

“I always meet new people in the hallways and this year was no different,” McConnell says of the 2016 show. “As for new games, I came away with a fun new game performed by Keith Alan during the ‘DJ of The Year’ competition, and Betsy Fischer told me that the game I performed during the same competition worked really well at a mitzvah she did the following weekend.”

Although he personally didn’t buy anything from the exhibit floor this year, McConnell says he did see a couple new toys that might interest him in the future.

“Overall, the Expo has and always will have something for the beginners and the veterans alike, and that’s why I attend every year,” says Martinez. “I see friends I’ve made at the Expo who I only get to see once a year because of where I live, so for me it’s sort of like a reunion.

“I always enjoyed having lunch and dinner with different groups each day and night. In fact, if you’re reading this and have never attended DJ Times’ Expo, what are you waiting for?”

DJ of the Year: Jack Bermeo flanked by Mike Walter & Dom Sestito. Elite Entertainment
DJ of the Year: Jack Bermeo flanked by Mike Walter & Dom Sestito.

Another Northeasterner, Artem Lomaz of NinetyThree Entertainment, says this year’s DJ Expo was “stellar as always.”

“From the unique elements on the showroom floor—where I purchased some RCF speakers that have been on my wish list for awhile—to the incredible seminars to the networking happening at every corner, it’s a trip I look forward to all year long,” says Lomaz of Roxbury, N.J.

“Items of special note for me were Mike Walter’s seminar, which focused on performance improvement—a special thank you to his team for the technical production each day of the Expo—Steve Moody’s presentation highlighting the importance of personality and genuine excitement, and Randy Bartlett’s exceptional brand of humor, directness and charm.

“Other highlights were Sean ‘Big Daddy’ McKee’s ‘Mitzvah Madness’ seminar and Jake Jacobsen’s games seminar, both of which exceeded their deservingly high expectations.”

Speaking of bar/bat mitzvahs and games, Lomaz says a tremendous moment during the Expo—as well as being a milestone for the DJ industry—was seeing Randi Rae being awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at McKee’s seminar. “It’s a well-deserved honor,” he says.

Every year the DJ Expo concludes with the “DJ of the Year” competition, which bestows honors to mobile DJs in a variety of categories, including the top honor.

“I have to send my congratulations out to Jack Bermeo on winning ‘DJ of the Year,’ which marks his third title,” says Lomaz, “certainly not an easy feat to accomplish.”

The competition was not without mixed emotions, however, as Mike Walter announced that he’s stepping down as MC and producer of the annual event after 15 years. At the event, he was honored by DJ Times with a commemorative plaque for his service.

“Although I’m very happy for his successor, Jake Jacobsen, who I’m sure will honor the competition and event with his own brand of creativity,” says Lomaz, “it’s also difficult to see Mike stepping away from a role at which he excelled. I’m extremely happy and excited for him, and I’m grateful for the years I was able to witness his annual creations.”

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