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6 things to know about the new Equip Expo

September 28, 2022 -  By
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Equip Expo’s expanded outdoor demo area is just one way OPEI hopes to improve on GIE+Expo with this new event. (Photo: Chris Higdon)

Equip Expo’s expanded outdoor demo area is just one way OPEI hopes to improve on GIE+Expo with this new event. (Photo: Chris Higdon)

Over the course of a few decades, hundreds of thousands of lawn care and landscape professionals rolled into Louisville to attend GIE+EXPO and see what’s new in the industry. This year, at the first-ever Equip Exposition, the show itself takes center stage with a reimagining of what it can be for its attendees.

Next month we’ll share some of the most innovative new equipment to be unveiled at the inaugural Equip Expo. This month, we’re looking at what attendees can look forward to at this new show … along with some suggestions from our staff on things to do after-hours in Louisville.

1. Welcome reception at Louisville Slugger Field

Equip Expo kicks off with a bang on Tuesday, Oct. 18. Sponsored by Husqvarna and Louisville Tourism, Louisville Slugger Field, home of the appropriately named Louisville Bats, the Triple-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, will be the location for the welcome reception. The event runs from 6 to 9:30 p.m., offers food and beverage and culminates with a firework show.

Tammy Lee, manager of business to consumer marketing for John Deere turf, utility and compact tractors, says at Equip, the company wants to give the industry a glimpse of what is happening with the company now and over the next several years. Because of this, they’re upping their own attendees for the new events, like the welcome reception.

“We’re bringing in additional key dealers for the welcoming reception,” Lee says. “A lot of our leadership from John Deere will be attending. We’re anticipating an even greater audience of our customer base that will be attending this show.”

2. A bigger, bolder layout

The show remains at the Kentucky Exposition Center (KEC), but the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), which owns and operates the event, wanted to be sure Equip looked different than its predecessor. Expect a reworked layout from GIE+EXPO that also occupies more real estate.

The Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville will again host Equip Expo in 2022. (Photo: Chris Higdon)

The Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville will again host Equip Expo in 2022. (Photo: Chris Higdon)

“We blew the thing up. We wanted to start from scratch,” says Kris Kiser, CEO of the OPEI. “Both Equip Expo and Hardscapes North America, which continues to co-locate with us, will be in the north wing. But the hallway is all open now. We created an education center with a retail outlet. The south wing is the equipment wing, and we’ve expanded the outdoor area.”

The outdoor demo area expands from 22 acres to 30 acres. As attendees exit the KEC, they will walk into the Stihl booth.

“The demo area, for us, is crucial,” says Nick Carlson, founder of Mulch Mate. “It doesn’t feel the same in video as when you see it in person. When they get to see the equipment run the way it was meant to run, nothing can replace that feeling. I believe most purchases are made off of feeling. All that extra space gives that feeling to the buyers who are there to grow their business.”

3. New education sessions

With the new show comes new partners in providing educational sessions to Equip Expo attendees. If you’re reading this magazine, you’re already familiar with one of those new partners: Landscape Management magazine.

Companies looking to exhibit at Equip Expo better get in line for 2023. Organizers say the show was sold out of booth space by mid-August. (Photo: Chris Higdon)

Companies looking to exhibit at Equip Expo better get in line for 2023. Organizers say the show was sold out of booth space by mid-August. (Photo: Chris Higdon)

“We want to make this show very relevant to the landscape contractor and the hardscape contractor, so we formed partnerships like (with LM), with the Engine and Equipment Training Council, with the Pool and Hot Tub Alliance,” Kiser says. “We want to bring experts in the field to the show and develop something that is relevant for today’s attendee.”

Classes will include familiar faces often seen in the magazine, like “Develop your second in command,” taught by longtime LM columnist Jeffrey Scott. Judy Guido, chairwoman of Guido and Associates, will lead “Selling your business: What every operator needs to know” with a panel including Ed Bates of BrightView, James Huston of J.R. Consulting and Don Winsett of Davey Tree as panelists. “Your company, your culture” includes LM columnist Ken Thomas and Editor-in-Chief Seth Jones, along with Larry Ryan of Ryan Lawn & Tree, Peter Dufau of Dufau Landscape, Brian Brueggeman of Bruce Wilson & Co. and Donna Vignocchi of ILT Vignocchi Landscape.

“We’re well versed in sharing information with our readers via our usual channels — the print magazine, our LMDirect! e-newsletter, on webinars and social media,” says Bill Roddy, publisher of LM. “Adding our own classes to Equip Expo is a fantastic new opportunity and a way for us to even better engage our audience.”

4. Who is literally the fastest?

Fast, friendly service is a regular promise in the industry. But who is literally the fastest man and woman in this great industry? At Equip Expo, we’ll find out.

Sponsored by Ariens, the first ever Mulligan’s 5K Fun Run & Walk takes place at 7 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19. The race includes a trip across the Big Four pedestrian bridge over the Ohio River.

“(Sponsoring the 5K) is a little bit personal. My dad (Mike Ariens, former chairman/CEO, Ariens) was a runner and back in the early days of the old trade show, there was a 5K, and he would run that race,” says Dan Ariens, chairman/CEO of Ariens. “He and Fred Stratton (chairman emeritus, Briggs & Stratton) and all those guys in the industry would run in it. It was just a fun run, and this is a nice way for us to be a sponsor of something unique and different at Equip.”

Participating in the race costs $40, with proceeds benefitting the Kentucky Humane Society.

5. Big-name stars

Equip Expo upped its star power for the event. Country music icon Trace Adkins will perform a free show sponsored by Stihl on Thursday night of the conference, while golf funnyman David Feherty will give the opening keynote, sponsored by John Deere. (Photos courtesy of Equip Expo)

Equip Expo upped its star power for the event. Country music icon Trace Adkins will perform a free show sponsored by Stihl on Thursday night of the conference, while golf funnyman David Feherty will give the opening keynote, sponsored by John Deere. (Photos courtesy of Equip Expo)

Legendary country singer Trace Adkins will perform at 4th Street Live for this year’s Equip Expo. The multi-platinum star will put on a free show sponsored by Stihl on the Belgard Stage at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 20. Adkins is best known for his hits “(This Ain’t) No Thinkin’ Thing,” “Ladies Love Country Boys,” and “You’re Gonna Miss This.”

“I love Trace Adkins; he’s iconic,” says Carlson. “Look at the guys who show up for this show. We all tend to like the same things: We like our equipment; We like our trucks and we like our country music. Trace Adkins is the pinnacle of country music. I think we can all relate to him and his lyrics. It’s a perfect fit. I look forward to 4th Street and what Equip brings as the extras, and it’s something they don’t even have to do.”

Giving the opening keynote is David Feherty, former professional golfer and current golf broadcaster. Sponsored by John Deere, the keynote takes place at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 19. Feherty, famous for his quick wit and funny one-liners, once said professional golfer Jim Furyk’s swing, “looks like an octopus falling out of a tree.”

“We upped the talent. That’s why we have Trace Adkins and David Feherty,” Kiser adds. “We really upped the fun. We’ve upped the ability to interact with your peers. And we’ve upped the educational offerings along with the exhibits.”

6. Biggest. Show. Ever.

Good news for OPEI: the new name has not dissuaded attendees from registering in massive numbers. Attendee registration is tracking at a record pace. Only after the show concludes will those numbers become official, but experts agree this Equip should set records.

Ariens plans to launch a record number of products at Equip Expo. (Photo: Chris Higdon)

Ariens plans to launch a record number of products at Equip Expo. (Photo: Chris Higdon)

This will be the first Equip Expo for John Deere’s Lee, who comes from the agriculture side of the industry.
“I’m so excited to get to Equip Expo. This is the show everyone tells me will be the best show I’ve ever been to,” she says. “I’ve been to a lot of farm shows, but I haven’t attended this one. The bar is set high; we have great expectations.”

Attendee numbers are still being calculated, but the square footage is not in doubt. It will be the biggest show ever hosted by OPEI in terms of square footage.

“We’re seeing pre-registration numbers that are bigger than last year. We are completely sold out from an exhibitor standpoint. We’re completely sold out from outdoor and indoor space, we have a waiting list of people looking for booth space,” Ariens says. “It’ll be the largest show ever in our industry. It feels already like a home run. I think it’ll feel like a grand slam when we’re done.”

Seth Jones

About the Author:

Seth Jones, a graduate of Kansas University’s William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications, was voted best columnist in the industry in 2014 and 2018 by the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association. Seth has more than 19 years of experience in the golf and turf industries and has traveled the world seeking great stories. He is editor-in-chief of Landscape Management, Golfdom and Athletic Turf magazines. Jones can be reached at sjones@northcoastmedia.net.

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