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Seth’s Cut: Back on the bike

November 12, 2021 -  By
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Equipped for success (Left to right) LM Editor-in-Chief Seth Jones, Publisher Bill Roddy, Associate Publisher Craig MacGregor, OPEI President Kris Kiser and Rebecca Kirk of The Davey Tree Expert Co. at the new Equip Exposition office in Louisville. (Photo: LM Staff)

Equipped for success (Left to right) LM Editor-in-Chief Seth Jones, Publisher Bill Roddy, Associate Publisher Craig MacGregor, OPEI President Kris Kiser and Rebecca Kirk of The Davey Tree Expert Co. at the new Equip Exposition office in Louisville. (Photo: LM Staff)

From Oct. 18, 2019, to Oct. 19, 2021, is exactly 731 days. Two years and one day. That’s how long the time span was between the end of the 2019 GIE+EXPO and the beginning of the 2021 GIE+EXPO, the international landscape, outdoor living and equipment exposition that takes place in Louisville each year (minus a global pandemic).

I wondered, would we remember how to do this trade show thing? Would it come back like riding a bicycle, or would it be awkward, like those days in 2020 when you didn’t know if you were supposed to shake hands, fist bump or just wave from a comfortable distance?

Turns out in this industry, we ride bikes — hard.

That feels-like-the-good-ol’-days moment came for me as I was standing in the Echo booth on day one of the show, there for a toast to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the company. I was standing on the fringe of the booth, happy to stand to the back of the crowd (I’m kinda tall and don’t like being the blockhead in everyone’s view.) Someone from Echo pushed me to move up front because, “You’re media!”

Once I got there I saw a bunch of familiar faces and started shaking hands with folks I hadn’t seen in quite a while. A few words were spoken over a microphone, and then plastic champagne flutes of sparkling grape juice were handed out for a toast. We may have been toasting Echo’s 50th at that moment, but it felt like at the same time we were toasting being back together.

The 2021 GIE+EXPO, the last time the show will use that name (see story on page 14), was a smashing success. Booth to booth, face to face, it was like we were all making up for lost time. And the crowd was incredible.

“The show was outstanding. I’ve done this show for six years and we didn’t know what to expect coming in after COVID,” Harry Brennan, director of sales for the professional channel for the Fountainhead Group, a manufacturer of pump sprayers, backpack sprayers and mosquito foggers, told me as he was packing up at the end of the show. “Right from the start, it was just incredible. We’ve seen more foot traffic than we’ve ever seen at the show. It’s exciting because it’s good to see people trying to get back to a normal life.”

Others echoed these comments:

“It’s been fantastic,” said Julie Scott, senior brand manager with Belgard. “I believed it would be busy, but it’s far exceeded that. There’s been so much excitement.”

“I’ve been to GIE the last five years with Greenworks, and this is our best show yet,” said Vince Constantine, commercial sales manager for Greenworks.

Kris Kiser, president and CEO of OPEI, who hosts the show, told me afterwards that the show was exactly what they were hoping to see.

“We were very pleased with the sheer number of landscape contractors and the fact that many stayed for the entirety of the show,” Kiser told me. “There was a lot of uncertainty, but the numbers were terrific. We did better on landscape contractors from 2019 — our record year — by a couple hundred. That second day outside was insane. I’ve never seen it that busy.”

What was the theme of the show, aside from, “We’re back!”? That’s easy: Batteries and robots, batteries and robots. It seemed like the folks who have a hard-line attitude of “the way dad used to do it” have softened. Maybe it was a year off, or maybe it’s California law AB 1346, banning the sale of new small gas engines in 2024. Other popular topics include the challenging supply chain, rising prices and labor.

Either way, we came back from GIE+EXPO with a renewed energy and notebooks full of content that we can’t wait to share with you. It was great to be back.

This article is tagged with , , and posted in 1121, Current Issue, Featured, From the Magazine, GIE+EXPO
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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