June 8, 2023
As the farm season clock ticks closer to show time, work behind the scenes ramps up, and the folks on the show team run even harder.
“Exhibitors are coming back and growing at an impressive rate, following the COVID years,” says Matt Jungmann, Farm Progress national events director. He and his staff are wrapping up exhibit sales and sending out assignments, and he’s spent the past several weeks with his “900-piece jigsaw puzzle,” carefully planning out lot assignments for each exhibitor and trying to make every one of them happy — no small feat.
“The Farm Progress Show is almost entirely sold out at this point,” Jungmann says. “Out of 950 lots, we have 20 left. And Husker Harvest Days has a few more open lots, but is more sold than at this point last year.”
Behind the scenes, that means the show team has sent out lot assignments to exhibitors, which means they have their exhibit number and login access to an exhibitor portal. Some exhibitors are filling out field demonstration applications and talking with Jungmann about autonomous demos and more.
“Right now, it’s everything from new exhibitors calling with questions to seasoned exhibitors checking their boxes — trucking arranged, pressure washing booked, hotel rooms secured,” he explains.
Big ideas can pay off
Sometimes those questions come with crazy ideas, and Jungmann has to figure out whether they fit within the show’s rules, which are designed to make the experience fair for all exhibitors and safe for every visitor.
“Everybody wants more space and more room to do their demos, so we work with them so there’s space for visitors to see it all,” he says.
One example of a crazy idea that won’t make the cut? Beer gardens all day long or at field demos. Some ideas work well for a smaller company event with a smaller crowd but don’t transfer well to an event with the size and scope of the Farm Progress Show or Husker Harvest Days.
“A lot of the things we say no to are due to safety, or we can’t allow every exhibitor to do or it’ll be a mess. Or it’s not safe for visitors or for them,” Jungmann explains.
But the crazy ideas are often where the really good ideas start — like concerts, T-shirt canons during field demos, parking lot shuttles in stretch golf carts, and “fact wagon” golf carts. “Those are all ideas that came from exhibitors and worked out really well,” Jungmann says.
Another example of a great idea will play out live during Husker Harvest Days this year. Just before each of the corn harvest demonstrations (morning and afternoon) on Wednesday, the local National Guard unit will have parachuters jump out the back of Chinook helicopters. Like all things related to field demonstrations, this one’s also weather dependent, but Jungmann is excited about the possibility of HHD catching a demonstration like that.
“It was their idea and we said, ‘Yes, do that!’” he says.
The other big behind-the-scenes piece to manage is the field demonstration crops. Jungmann says the field demo corn in Decatur, Ill., got rain recently, and all reports are that the crops in both Decatur and Grand Island, Neb., are in fantastic condition.
Overall, Jungmann is looking forward to these two shows, noting that the Farm Progress Show is a momentous one in 2023, as it marks 70 years since the first show. Jungmann says it’s bucket-list time for a lot of folks.
“A lot of people from around the country tell me they have Husker or the Farm Progress Show on their bucket list, and lots of people are activating that bucket list this year,” he says. “Look for more grower interest than ever and tons of international visitors.”
The 2023 Farm Progress Show will be held Aug. 29-31 in Decatur, Ill., and the 2023 Husker Harvest Days will be held Sept. 12-14 in Grand Island, Neb.
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