Welcome one and all toFCI Online’svirtual trade coverage of Surfaces 2002 in Las Vegas. Starting today, theFCI Onlinestaff will be bringing you continuous updates of what’s happening on, above and around the show floor at the Sands Expo & Convention Center.

As we sit here in our palatial accommodations at the Treasure Island Hotel and Casino, our eyes only just recovered from casino floor carpeting so gaudy as to shock Liberace, our thoughts drift to what the next three days will hold for the professional installation technician.

This morning, CFI Executive Director Jim Walker is scheduled to speak on “Estimating Techniques for the Salesperson,” a look at how the skill of estimating can greatly affect the success of a job. Business News Publishing Group Publisher Phil Johnson will moderate “Thinking Outside the Box to Beat the Big Box,” and the World Floor Covering Association’s 2002 National Installation Contest will begin, with competitors taking part in both written and hands-on exercises, the bulk of which will be taking place on Thursday.

And the products. Let’s not forget the products. Custom Building Products is charging forward with RhinoBoard. Mapei is speeding along with Mach 4 and Mach 6. Bostik is bringing the Durabond, James Hardie never leaves the Hardibacker behind, you can be sure that Innovatech’s Terminator will be back, and Ardex-W.W. Henry’s System One will be in the forefront. There will be enough new systems, adhesives, mortars, cutters, knee-kickers, power stretchers, uniforms, kneepads, grouts, trucks and other auxiliary equipment and materials to make any installation professional spend the next week grinning from ear to ear.

Why are we here? Hopefully, to give those of you who won’t have to opportunity to make it to this year’s event a taste of what you’re missing. We will have daily updates and images from the National Installation Contest, so you can see the competitors’ progress as it happens. You’ll get samplings from the 40-plus workshops and seminars going on every morning and afternoon for the duration of the show. And be sure to check back regularly to see the sights from the showroom floor. Last year former Miami Dolphin quarterback Dan Marino was a fixture at the Armstrong booth. Who knows who might make their presence known this year?

FCI Online’s virtual trade show coverage begins today and concludes Friday. It’s the best way to see what’s happening at Surfaces 2002 without actually being here.