Port-A-John Rental Emerges From the Pandemic Shutdown With Special Event Safety Strategy

Weather challenges don’t stop this Pennsylvania crew from providing top-notch airshow service.

Port-A-John Rental Emerges From the Pandemic Shutdown With Special Event Safety Strategy

The Port-A-John crew serving the air show included, from left, Stacy Brown, Mike Ruby, Danny Hancock, James Olechovski, Ed Newhouse, Eric Harris, Guy Jackson, John Myers, Lori Dudzinsky and Vincent Dudzinsky. (Photos courtesy of Port-A-John Rental)

The Team

Siblings Lori Dudzinsky and John Myers are the owners of Port-A-John Rental in Blairsville, Pennsylvania. About 85% of their work is portable sanitation, the rest septic service. Everyone on staff was involved in the Westmoreland Air Show event — Dudzinsky’s 14-year-old son Vincent, administrative assistant Stacy Brown, delivery/service technicians James Olechovski and Eric Harris, route drivers Dan Hancock and Mike Ruby, septic service technician Guy Jackson and cleaning technician Ed Newhouse. 

COMPANY HISTORY

Dudzinsky and Myers took over the business from their father, Jack Myers, when he retired in 2003. He purchased the company in 1978 after working as food service director at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He had wanted to get back to Pennsylvania and his brother, Lloyd Myers, who owned a portable sanitation business, knew Port-A-John was for sale and suggested he buy it. Later, Myers also bought out his competitor and then the septic division of the original company. Current inventory stands at 1,000 units (Satellite Industries) and 13 vehicles. 

MAKING CONNECTIONS 

Jack Myers provided units for the Westmoreland Air Show his first year in business and the company has had the account since. “I think our reputation speaks a lot,” Dudzinsky says. “We’re bringing them nice units, all the same color; they’re clean. We set up and tear down in a timely manner. We’re professional. They know we’re dependable and go the extra mile.”

In October 2020, when the country was in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic, Dudzinsky got a call from the event organizer. “I was surprised,” she says, “because everything was basically shut down at that time. But when he started telling me what they were planning to do and how it could work, it made sense.” 

The plan was for spectators to park on the old runway at the venue, the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport, and stay with their vehicles. There would be no vendors or exhibitors. Tickets would be sold only in advance with a reduced capacity limit of 1,000 vehicles each of the two days. Food trucks would drive around and portable restrooms would ring the perimeter.

There were numerous logistical details to work out before the Memorial Day weekend event and Dudzinsky was updated regularly.

THE MAIN EVENT

The theme of the 2021 air show was “A Heroes Tribute,” a dedication to COVID frontline workers. Scheduled activities included performances by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, aerial acrobatics and parachuting demonstrations. By May, easing restrictions allowed organizers to add several kids’ activities and a few vendors. 

Unfortunately, after working through all the challenges associated with COVID, the main difficulty for the event ended up being outside of everyone’s control — the weather. Both days were cold with misty rain and low cloud cover. The first aerial performance on Saturday was delayed two hours and the situation only got worse. Most activities had to be canceled or scaled down, including the 100-mile Heroes Tribute flyover. The Blue Angels could not perform Saturday and did only a low altitude show on Sunday. Spectators took everything in stride and were just glad to be outside with people again.

BY THE NUMBERS

Despite the uncertainties, the company started preparing for the event in early 2021. Supplies had been hard to get during the pandemic, so they wanted to order everything in plenty of time. They also bought more portable restrooms and hand-wash stations. By six weeks out, everything was in stock. They provided the usual number of units for the event — 115 standard and 17 wheelchair-accessible, all with hand sanitizers — but organizers increased the number of hand-wash stations from 13 in years past to 60.

LET’S ROLL

Before taking equipment to the venue, everything was inspected, repaired if needed, and washed. “And we made sure they had sanitizer and toilet tissue so that setting up went smoothly because all we had to do was put the chemicals in and wipe them down,” Dudzinsky says. “Doing that here at the shop saved us a lot of time

Using 2015 and 2019 Ford F-350 flatbed trucks, equipment was delivered to the site 10 days before the event and stockpiled. Unseasonably hot weather caused some problems, though. 

“Because of the heat we were having these pop-up thunderstorms,” Dudzinsky says. “One day a bad storm came through before lunch time and knocked over a bunch of the units. Then the sun came out and we sat them all back up. Then around dinnertime, another storm came through and knocked them over again.” Three hand-wash stations and two sanitizer dispensers were damaged. 

Three days before the event equipment was set into place in nine groupings along the old runway. A few units were also set up at the announcer’s stand and VIP tents.

KEEPIN’ IT CLEAN

Dudzinsky, her brother and her son stayed on site both days, mostly just enjoying themselves. “Basically there wasn’t anything for us to do because of the weather,” she says. “The units weren’t heavily used at all.”

Equipment was cleaned Saturday at 5:30 p.m. after the event. It took six workers four hours. They used two Ford F-550s (2015, 2016) built out by Satellite Vacuum Trucks with 600-gallon waste/350-gallon freshwater steel tanks, a 2012 Dodge 5500 from Imperial Industries with a 900-gallon waste/400-gallon freshwater aluminum tank, and a 2019 Ford F-350 with an Imperial 300-gallon waste/150-gallon freshwater aluminum slide-in tank, all with Masport pumps. Waste was transferred to their septic truck, a 2016 International 4300 built out by Amthor International with a 2,500-gallon aluminum tank and National Vacuum Equipment 607 pump, and later taken to a treatment plant in Johnstown, 35 miles from the shop. The company uses Walex supplies for service. 

Units were pumped out Sunday night after the event, then picked up over the next couple days and cleaned at the shop.

A SUCCESS STORY

Ironically, on Monday the weather was beautiful — and all COVID restrictions were lifted. In spite of everything, Dudzinsky says they were happy with the event, the organizers thought it was a success, and people enjoyed themselves whether watching the few remaining acts, throwing Frisbees or holding tailgate parties. An additional thrill for the company occurred on Sunday when Dudzinsky was interviewed by a local TV station. The interview aired during the 6 p.m. news.

As she does with all their large events, Dudzinsky provided a post-event assessment for the organizers to help them plan for the future. “I let them know if they needed more units, where the units were heavily used, where they weren’t heavily used.” 

The company always enjoys the air show, Dudzinsky says. “We have set up for thousands of special events but the Westmoreland County Air Show is by far our favorite. I love it. When those jets fly over, it just gives me goose bumps.”  



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