By Ron Goble
It’s hard to believe World Ag Expo is 44 this month and still going stronger than ever. Even through hard economic times, the largest agricultural exposition of its kind in the world continues to defy the odds. You might say, “Old Expo” still has the competitive heart of a young marathon runner.
In the beginning, World Ag Expo wasn’t much more than a vision in the minds of three Tulare businessmen. These visionaries – Kent Keough, Bill Huvelle and Jack Smith – had caught a glimpse of a small farm show in northern California during a road trip. They envisioned the agriculturally rich San Joaquin Valley becoming the center of the farm show universe with Tulare nestled right in the middle.
Farmers, ranchers and equipment dealers proved a winning combination. They gained support from the Tulare Chamber of Commerce, Tulare County Farm Bureau and numerous community leaders. The die was cast, and the first “Tulare Field and Row Crop Equipment Show” was held in 1968 at the Tulare County fairgrounds. The three-day show drew 28,000 visitors and 157 exhibitors.
As you all figured by now, it didn’t stop there. The second year saw attendance and exhibitor involvement double. By 1971, agriculture leaders, businessmen, and educators joined the stampede for Tulare every February. It was the first year they had educational seminars – 23 of them.
Also in ‘71, Tulare legend and two-time gold medal U.S. Olympic decathlon champion and U.S. Congressman, Bob Mathias came to the show. It was the place to be in February. So did an obscure, unknown farm writer from a San Joaquin Valley newspaper, covering the event for the first time. I’ve been involved in Expo in some way or another ever since.
A lot water has passed under the bridge since that first show. I covered Expo while working the ag beat for Visalia and Fresno newspapers in the 70’s and 80’s. I’ve seen a lot of changes…mostly improvements, but some we’ll just call learning experiences. I’ve seen a winter storm tear down some of the huge tents and delay opening of the show by a day. And I’ve been blessed to experience firsthand the down-to-earth- heartbeat of our nation’s farm and dairy community.
Come Tuesday, Feb. 8, World Ag Expo will once again be teeming with some 1,500 exhibitors, 1,500 volunteers and more than 100,000 visitors during the three-day event, who will make the Expo grounds rock with excitement. And once again, Expo will be in the spotlight, center stage in the world of agriculture. The show comes by its name honestly. Visitors literally come from all over the world.
Oh, and yes, there will probably be another rookie newspaper reporter getting his or her first taste of a show to top all shows! Along with him, take time to attend one of our Dairy Profit Seminars at the Seminar Center between “R” and “S” Streets. A shuttle will take you right to your destination, in the southeast section of the show grounds near the Wine & Cheese tent. The seminar program will get rolling about 10:30 each morning. You might learn something and you’ll surely meet up with old friends there. Stick around and enjoy a good lunch program and hear great speakers. Check the schedule on page 12 and we’ll see you at Expo!
Have an opinion or response? E-mail Ron Goble, Associate publisher/editor, Western DairyBusiness at: firstname.lastname@example.org