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Unveiling GIE+EXPO’s next big thing

October 4, 2019 -  By


Next month, an estimated 25,000 people will descend upon Louisville, Ky., for the annual GIE+EXPO. They’ll come from a variety of businesses and backgrounds but with a common goal: to improve their operation with that next big idea.

Kyle Narsavage is president of GreenSweep, a full-service landscaping firm based in the Washington D.C./Baltimore area. He and two of his employees travel the 600 miles to GIE+EXPO for three reasons: networking, education and researching new equipment.

“We’ve found (GIE+EXPO) very beneficial — we found out about Aspire two years ago, and now we are implementing the software this year,” Narsavage says. “We’ve also purchased various equipment solely based on meeting with vendors at the show that we never would have had access to back home.”

What will be the “ah-ha” moment for any attendee is impossible to predict. One thing is certain: The companies exhibiting their wares at GIE+EXPO are hopeful that it is their products or services that become a game-changer for the droves of attendees.

Mulch ado about GIE+EXPO

Craig Carlson, president of Mulch Mate, was diligently working on his GIE+EXPO videos when contacted by Landscape Management in August. Perfect timing, then, to talk about the show and what it means to the family-owned company.

“Last year at GIE+EXPO was when we brought (Mulch Mate) to the world,” Carlson says. “And we felt like we had almost rock-star status when we got there.”

OUT IN DROVES At the 2018 GIE+EXPO, the Mulch Mate demo area was a hot spot for attendees. Photo: GIE+EXPO

OUT IN DROVES At the 2018 GIE+EXPO, the Mulch Mate demo area was a hot spot for attendees. (Photo: GIE+EXPO)

The Mulch Mate automatically dispenses mulch, increasing the amount of mulch a crew can spread by as much as 50 percent. The company says the machine can dispense 10 yards in 10 minutes. The idea sprang from the mind of Carlson’s son Nick, who owned and operated a landscaping company for 16 years before changing fields when he came up with the idea for Mulch Mate.

“Three-and-a-half years ago, he won a bunch of contracts, then he thought, ‘Holy crap, I’m the dog that just caught the mail truck! What do I do now?’” Carlson recalls. “He came to me and said he needed to do something without killing his guys and without hiring a bunch more guys. He came up with the Mulch Mate and got it patented, then brought it to market.”

Carlson was optimistic going into GIE+EXPO. His background is in a different industry, but he had attended trade shows before and GIE+EXPO as a part of his son’s landscaping company, so this definitely wasn’t his first rodeo. He thought he knew what to expect.

“You’re standing there waiting for someone to stumble by, hopeful you can snag them and that they’re a customer,” he says of typical trade shows. “My reaction at GIE+EXPO was, ‘how fast can I talk?’ Because I needed to hurry up and talk to the next person.”

Carlson describes a scene that would make an exhibitor in any industry salivate: He was unable to leave the booth because he was surrounded by so many people. He had five or six people waiting at all times, forcing them to choreograph the flow of people through the booth so they could make sure everyone got an opportunity to see the machine.

When the outdoor demo area opened? It was more of the same.

Brett Newendorp, Vermeer (Photo: Seth Jones)

Brett Newendorp, Vermeer (Photo: Seth Jones)

Allow me to demonstrate

Scott Kinkead, Turfco

Scott Kinkead, Turfco

Brett Newendorp, landscape market manager for Vermeer, says that every year, the company has seen more people come through its booth — and that’s why it’s expanding its presence at GIE+EXPO.

“We see a lot of value in being at that show … for us, it’s the indoor/outdoor combination,” Newendorp says. “That’s huge — there aren’t many shows where you get the opportunity to demonstrate your equipment as well as show it. When people get on our machines and get to operate them, they get to see the value, and they see themselves using them as a business solution.”

Scott Kinkead, executive vice president of Turfco Manufacturing, agrees. He’s been attending the GIE+EXPO show for almost 30 years — back when it was just the GIE show and traveled to different cities — and recalls moments like hauling around a bag full of quarters to take the equipment to the local car wash, or the year it was so cold in St. Louis they stood around a fire to stay warm.

“The great thing about the show is the opportunity to demonstrate product. Guys get to run your equipment and experience it hands-on,” he says. “It allows you to close deals with the full experience. We’re always slammed, the entire show.”



While it seems the show is a home run in terms of attendees and attention, it’s also a brute to bear in terms of costs.

“It’s a significant investment,” Kinkead adds. “You have to have product both inside and outside. It’s not just an investment in the (booth), but also your people … getting equipment there … and the downside of demoing products? It’s that now you’re demoing products, and now you can’t sell it as new anymore.”

Ken Taylor, John Deere

Ken Taylor, John Deere

“For the manufacturers, it is a serious investment,” says Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute and the managing partner of GIE+EXPO. “It’s a lot of money, a lot of planning, a lot of people and a lot of logistics. Thankfully, it’s something they want to do because it’s good for business. You see how big some of these booths are — these are hardcore business folks. They wouldn’t be there if it didn’t work.”

Ken Taylor, customer segment manager for John Deere, says it “takes a village” for his company to get everything in order for the presence Deere likes to create for the show. He laughs when he recalls the time when they held an early morning event at Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby. Though there was a Hall of Fame jockey present to address the group, most of the attendees were focused on the million-dollar thoroughbred race horses eating peppermint candies from the hands of guests.

“Planning for the show starts months in advance, with many team members from the factory, marketing, advertising and sales incorporating their thoughts and ideas into the show,” Taylor says. “GIE+EXPO is a trade show that attracts dealers, retailers and rental companies as well as professional end users from various segments and gives us the opportunity to display the depth and breadth of our product portfolio.”

Growing, Growing For the past 11 years, GIE+EXPO has grown and shows no signs of stopping. (Photo: GIE+EXPO)

GROWING, GROWING For the past 11 years, GIE+EXPO has grown and shows no signs of stopping. (Photo: GIE+EXPO)

Growing and growing

Kris Kiser, OPEI

Kris Kiser, OPEI

Kiser reports that for the last eleven years, the GIE+EXPO show has grown each year, and it’s on track to do so again in 2019.

“The show is emerging as an international show. You see large shows in China and Europe, but they have a very strong agriculture or construction presence,” Kiser says. “Our show is the gold-plated event in our space.”

Jeff Weemhoff, president of Atlantic Water Gardens and Oase, says GIE+EXPO has been steadily growing for his company — in terms of its presence and interest in its products.

“We create quite a few displays for the outdoor area, while the indoor area is more show and tell,” Weemhoff says. “We base our success of the show on the participation we get at the booth and the people we meet before, during and after the show. This year will be the first year since the (Atlantic Water Gardens and Oase) merger, so we’ll be there telling people what that means for our customers.”

Weemhoff says GIE+EXPO is the biggest presence his company will make at any show, and that is because of the diversity of the attendees, like Taylor described.

“Our second biggest show is the Irrigation Show, but for us, that’s a little more of a distributor show instead of a contractors’ show,” Weemhoff says. “I think the fact that attendees get to try out the equipment, it makes it more of a hands-on show than the Irrigation Association show.”

“I like the direction the show is going,” says Mulch Mate’s Carlson. He had attended previously as a landscape pro when his son still had his landscaping business. “In previous years, it seemed like it was going down the path of a dealer show. Once people had their dealer network set up, they’d just come for the back-slapping. ‘How ya doing? You going to order the same number as last year? Good.’ But maybe because of social media, it’s got the interest of end users again. They want to come check it out and see what’s new on the market. The end users want to see new ideas to improve their business.”

CONNECT GIE+EXPO provides landscape pros, distributors and dealers a chance to network. (Photo: Mulch Mate)

CONNECT GIE+EXPO provides landscape pros, distributors and dealers a chance to network. (Photo: Mulch Mate)

The next big thing

What will make waves in 2019 like Mulch Mate made in 2018? Every GIE+EXPO offers a slate of new products offering potential. The better question is which one will make a true difference a year down the road?

“We had a number of people asking us how long we’ve been around … and when they heard we were new, they said, ‘Well, we’ll see if you’re still around next year,’” Carlson says. He expects to see many of those same customers this year, now that the Mulch Mate has sustained itself for a year.

“Since we’re such a new machine and a new concept, people didn’t buy from us last year,” Carlson says. “I think our investment last year was really into this year. GIE+EXPO is a building process, and we consider it the biggest show we go to.”

One company that is raising its hand as a hopeful up-and-comer is KR Chariot, invented by Florida-based lawn care operator David Reeves. Don’t bother looking for the company’s website, because as of right now, the only online presence the company has is a handful of YouTube videos of Reeves operating the machine.

The KR Chariot is a hands-free three-wheeled transporter that allows a worker to do such projects as string trimming, blowing and fertilizing much faster than if they were on foot. Reeves, who has owned and operated Reeves Lawn Care in Lakeland, Fla., for the past 16 years, came up with the idea because he was getting fatigued too early in the day.

SPARK INTEREST David Reeves hopes GIE+EXPO will bring attention to his invention, the KR Chariot. (Photo: KR Chariot)

SPARK INTEREST David Reeves hopes GIE+EXPO will bring attention to his invention, the KR Chariot. (Photo: KR Chariot)

“I was worn out by 10 in the morning, and that’s when it dawned on me, as I was driving to my next yard, what I should do,” Reeves says.

He says the machine has made him as much as 30 percent more efficient. He takes fewer breaks, is no longer tired at the end of a day and his work boots last a lot longer than they did before the Chariot. Only four KR Chariots currently exist — built by Reeves and his cousin — but Reeves is hopeful a trip to Louisville can change that.

“That’s why I’m going to GIE+EXPO — I’m hopeful to get the attention of a big company,” Reeves says. “I’m demoing it in the demo area. I’ve tried to Google ‘who builds mowers in America’ but that just doesn’t work.”

Kick some tires, light some fires

Reeves can operate his KR Chariot like an old pro, but it’s hard to say how much training a typical laborer would need before he or she became an expert. Reeves estimates 15 minutes on the machine would get someone comfortable enough to then operate it while holding a hand tool like a string trimmer or blower.

“The way I explain it is when was the last time you thought about how you drive a car? Or if you’re experienced on a zero-turn mower, how much do you think about that?” Reeves says. “With the Chariot, you don’t even think about it. You’re just edging, line trimming and blowing off properties.”

Perhaps if the right person kicks the tires on the KR Chariot at GIE+EXPO, it’ll light a fire.

“I’m just a little guy who built something, came up with something and paid for it all myself,” Reeves says. “Because walking is overrated.”

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 23 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

1 Comment on "Unveiling GIE+EXPO’s next big thing"

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  1. lisa says:

    Thank you for sharing the latest and updated content! Your shared information helpful to exhibitors for hitting the big time showcase service or products.