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Out on the farm

I am sitting at the desk in my hotel room in Kearney, Neb. I look out the window and I have a view of the sun setting over the Great Plains, and the constant stream of truckers heading west on Interstate 80.

I am here to work with a client at Husker Harvest Days, a large outdoor farm show. I’ve been here almost a week, with almost a week to go. I am on a first name basis with the folks at the front desk and in the breakfast area. It doesn’t take long in a small hotel in a small town.

I just came off of two weeks in Boone, Iowa, for the Farm Progress Show, the country’s largest outdoor farm show. It will have been close to 30 days by the time I’m back in the office. Aside from a couple days over Labor Day weekend, it will have been that long since I’ve been at home as well.

Contrary to what you might think, I love doing these shows. However, it is by far the hardest work and longest hours of any show I do all year. It is outdoors in rain and thunder and lightning and heat and humidity. It is up at 5:00 a.m., out by 6:00 a.m. and on the grounds by 7:00 a.m. Work until close to dark, shower, have dinner and hit the sack.

It is working as part of the crew, not supervising the crew. There are no ‘show contractors’ or ‘service desks.’ If you need it, you bring it. If you need help, you bring them with you too.

On the other hand, there seems to be an unwritten code that everyone, regardless of their company’s competitive stance, is willing to help anyone do just about anything at any time. In just four years of doing these events, I feel like I know the people who work these shows better than some of the other shows in other industries that I have been doing for decades.

I like driving 30 minutes to the show site down two-lane roads watching the sun rise over miles of corn fields rather than fighting stop-and-go rush hour traffic on interstate highways in the city. I like going to dinner in local small town cafés and diners rather than national chain restaurants. And I like the feeling of being welcomed into a community and appreciated for supporting their businesses.

I like working with the crews we use for these events and the people who support these shows – the landscapers, tent guys and electrical teams. They are some of the hardest working people I know, and will work until the job is done.

I like working with clients in this industry. I am fascinated by the use of technology in agriculture, and the advancements that have been made in helping farmers produce more yield on their land, and creating environmental efficiencies as they do it.

I like meeting the farmers who come to these shows and learning about what it takes to be successful in agriculture in this day and age, and how they are using these new technologies. It is certainly different than when I grew up in a farming community in the 1960s.

And I like exploring the out-of-the-way places that you rarely hear about, unless you ask your local bartender. Did you know that John Wayne was born in Winterset, Iowa, just a short distance from where we were staying? There is a cool museum in the home where he was born. Remember the Clint Eastwood/Meryl Streep movie “Bridges of Madison County”? Well, there are six covered bridges in Madison County, Iowa, where much of the movie was filmed.

On a day off exploring in Nebraska, we ran into Carhenge, Nebraska’s answer to Stonehenge. Just check it out…www.carhenge.com. And cruising through the Sand Hill region of the state is like a trip back in time to the settlers of the Oregon and Mormon trails.

Perhaps it’s that these events are so different than the ‘typical’ tradeshow. They’re not in a convention center…or any kind of building. They’re not in a convention city…or any kind of city, for that matter. I love working tradeshows, but these outdoor farm shows are a completely different experience.

If you’ve been in the tradeshow industry and haven’t had the opportunity to experience one of these big outdoor farm events, you need to. It’s time to get out on the farm.

See you on the show floor!

Jim Obermeyer has been in the trade show industry over 30 years, both as a corporate trade show manager and exhibit house executive. He is now a partner in a new company: Reveal: Exhibiting a World of Difference. He can be reached at jobermeyer@revealexhibits.com

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Posted in As the Saw Turns, Columns
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