The Indiana-Illinois Farm Equipment and Outdoor Power show was in trouble. After a 39 year run, dwindling attendance and slumping exhibitor numbers prompted the shows ownership to call it quits in January of 2018. “We really did not want to see this tradition go away,” said Gary Thoe with Mid-Country Media of Knightstown, IN, publishers of Farm World Newspaper. “Over breakfast one morning, we started kicking around the idea of taking over the show,” said Gary Truitt, President and Founder of Hoosier Ag Today, Indiana’s largest ag radio network. The two friends and colleagues, formerly with Emmis Commutations, represented the two largest ag media outlets in the state and felt they had the expertise, contacts, and resources to save the show. In March, they formed a new venture, acquired the show, and announced a new name and new direction for the December event.
The new show opened on December 11, 2018 and ran for 3 days in the West Pavilion at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. The show was a success on all levels with increased exhibitor numbers, higher attendance numbers, and solid financial performance. Renamed the Indiana Farm Equipment and Technology Expo, the show focused not only on today’s equipment and production technology but also showcased the new trends and innovations that farmers will be using in the next few years. These included drones, cover crops, soil sensors, precision planting, data analysis, artificial intelligence, and biological products. The show featured live demonstrations of this new technology and seminars by Indiana farmers who are using these new tools in their operations. A new coffee shop, located on the show floor, allowed farmers, exhibitors, and experts to meet and talk one-on-one about the new technology impacting agriculture today.
A new look to the show floor and a massive statewide advertising campaign created a good deal of excitement among farmers and exhibitors. Over 180 exhibits filled the more than 3 acres of floor space in the building, and over 30 of the companies at the 2018 show had never before exhibited at the event. As the show ended, over 50 exhibitors had turned in written intentions to return in 2019, several requesting a larger space to exhibit.
Attendance over the three days topped 2,000, a significant increase over the past few years. “We are confident that continued improvements in the show and an improving farm economy will result in continued increases in attendance over the next few years,” stated Thoe. The third day of the show, historically the slowest, had the highest attendance at over 700, prompted, in part, by the free pork lunch offered by the Indiana Pork Producers. “This show has always been about quality not quantity,” said Truitt. “Most of those attending are working farmers. The spacious show floor allows for plenty of space to display products and to promote extended interaction with exhibitors. I saw plenty of that interaction this year.” An analysis of the registration data showed attendees came from all over Indiana and many from outside the state.
“Being media companies, we put together an extensive and sophisticated marketing plan that utilized radio, print, billboard, web based, and social media elements over 6 months,” said Truitt. During the show, numerous live on-line video feeds were streamed, including remarks by Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch, who officially opened the show. A video documentary will be produced about the 2018 Expo that will be used to promote the 2019 event. For the first time, farmers attending the Expo registered, providing an accurate attendance figure as well as details on their locations throughout the state. This data will be used in the development and marketing of the 2019 event.
“There is a lot of innovation taking place in agriculture today, and we want to showcase that innovation,” said Thoe. The Expo had a definite Hoosier stamp on it as the Indiana State department of Agriculture, Indiana NRCS, and Purdue Extension all partnered and participated in the event. More organizations are expected to be part of the 2019 show. Other features of the 2019 show will include improvement of the layout of the show floor to aid traffic flow and exhibitor access, more dynamic demonstrations, and a greater variety of seminar topics. An attention getting, daily, door prize will again be offered. Reservations are being taken for exhibit space for the 2019 show, contact Tony Hodson at 800-8765133 or email@example.com.