Equipment expo rebrands

Tens of thousands of people attend the Agri-Trade Equipment Expo in Red Deer each year. Why? Thanks to a survey conducted at last year’s show, organizers now know it’s to research and buy new equipment, and to socialize. And that’s already prompted changes to this year’s event, which runs Nov. 5 to 8 at Westerner Park.

Tens of thousands of people attend the Agri-Trade Equipment Expo in Red Deer each year.

Why?

Thanks to a survey conducted at last year’s show, organizers now know it’s to research and buy new equipment, and to socialize. And that’s already prompted changes to this year’s event, which runs Nov. 5 to 8 at Westerner Park.

This year, attendees will be able to meet and network at The Watering Hole, where coffee and even beer will be available.

“We realize socialized networking is a huge part of the show and we want to facilitate that,” said Agri-Trade manager Dianne Smirl.

The survey also indicated that 80 per cent of attendees are from Alberta, with Saskatchewan accounting for 10 per cent, and Manitoba and British Columbia for most of the remainder. And it revealed that half of the people at Agri-Trade are older than 40 and half are younger.

The latter group is particularly important to Smirl, because they represent the future of the show.

“Those are the people who are going to keep Agri-Trade growing and going.”

Organizers are considering initiatives like a child-minding service to attract young farmers. They’ve given Agri-Trade a fresh brand and launched a new website that’s designed for mobile devices.

Last year, a Technology Pavilion was created where high-tech advances in agriculture are showcased. That pavilion, which Smirl thinks appeals to young producers, is expanding this year.

“That’s what they want to see.”

While limited space remains a challenge for organizers, with more than 100 businesses on a waiting list for this year’s show, the crunch has been eased slightly. A 6,500-square-foot tent is being erected west of the Agricentre West building, and 2,500 square feet in the Harvest Centre has been freed up for new exhibitors.

These changes have boosted the number of exhibitors to 425, up from the 2013 tally of 385.

If the tent proves financially and logistically viable, it could set the stage for a 40,000-square-foot tent in 2015, said Smirl. The challenges associated with large tents include the time and effort required to set them up, and the fact they’d reduce parking space at Westerner Park prior to Agri-Trade, she pointed out.

To help attendees zero in on their needs and interests in the 360,000 square feet of indoor space and 75,000 square feet of outside space at Agri-Trade, organizers continue to strategically locate exhibitors.

In addition to high-tech businesses being grouped in the Technology Pavilion, producer associations and educational institutions will share space and a new Truck and Trailer Pavilion has been created. Next year, a livestock-focused pavilion is planned.

Smirl said Agri-Trade 2013 was one of the best-selling shows ever — something she attributes to the bumper crops that put farmers into a buying mood. This year is unlikely to produce the same results, given the weather challenges, lower prices and crop carry-overs that farmers faced in 2014.

But Smirl is optimistic the show will still draw the big crowds that it seems to every year.

A big change for 2014 will be the absence of Agri-Trade founder Pat Kennedy hustling between pavilions. He handed management responsibilities over to Smirl last year.

His successor hopes to see him at Agri-Trade, but understands why — after 30 years — Kennedy might want to step back and catch his breath. She said his presence will be felt whether he’s there or not.

“It’ll always be his show.”

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com

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