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Trade shows famous for their pluck, personalities

POSTED: February 7, 2008 5:03 a.m.

I love trade shows.

I don’t care what your particular product is, I just love watching folks strive for unique ways to display their goods where it appeals to their customers.

I remember going to a big auto show at the Atlanta Civic Center. This was in the day when they hired shapely young women to stand on giant turntables as the cars rotated.

The women would make gestures, a la Vanna White, at the sleek lines of the newest cars to come out of Detroit.

This was when gas was 30 cents a gallon and bigger was obviously better. They also had "the cars of tomorrow." I’ve yet to see anything like that car on the road and that was 40 years ago.

A few years later, I went to the Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie. If it has anything to do with farming, you’ll see it there. They have every kind of tractor from very small to very large. Various manufacturers make all sorts of implements that will attach to the tractors and will do whatever they do faster, quicker and better than their competitors.

One year, Ford Tractors hired comedian Jerry Clower to entertain at its giant tent.

"Haaw," intoned Clower in his Mississippi drawl. "That big ol’ Ford tractor will get the job done, son. It’ll plow that field and get you home in time for mama to fix you some supper."

It made me want to buy one myself. Of course, I was living in a garage apartment at the time.

This week, I went back to the annual International Poultry Expo in Atlanta. It covers a space the size of several football fields, and everything from the chicken to the egg, without any regard as to which one came first, is on display.

The thing I like about these kinds of shows is the abundance of glad-handing sales reps who want to show you their latest and greatest.

"Have you seen our newest gizzard separator?" a guy asks me. I told him no and that I wasn’t having any gizzard issues that I was aware of.

The show attracts people from all over the world. There are folks in business suits and blue jeans. Others wear robes and headgear that appears to be from Africa. There was a large contingent of folks who wore the traditional styles of the Mennonites.

I come away from the show with a great appreciation of how big the poultry industry really is. There are 20,000 people at this show and you have to figure that there are a bunch of folks back at home tending to the chickens or their processing.

I also come away with a nice collection of trinkets: pens, note pads and an assortment of fingernail clippers. Being well manicured must be important in the poultry industry.

This year, I brought home my all-time trade show favorite: a string of Mardi Gras-style beads adorned with small rubber chickens. I proudly wore them all day, except when I went to lunch at a fancy place that appeared to frown on folks wearing rubber chicken beads.

Whatever kind of widget you make, if you’re having a trade show, I’d love to come. I’ve got a brand new set of beads that are just itching for a chance to be worn again.

Harris Blackwood is community editor of The Times. His columns appear Wednesdays and Sundays.



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