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Continued COVID-19 restrictions cast doubt on live events into early 2021

Todd Fitchette, Associate Editor

August 19, 2020

2 Min Read
The World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif. showcases new technology every February from the International Agricenter in central California. For the first time in the event's 54 years, organizers must consider the possibility of a non-live event as California continues to restrict events and activities in the wake of COVID-19.Todd Fitchette

With the cancellation of large agricultural trade shows and events out to at least the end of January, 2021 because of continued COVID-19 restrictions, officials with the World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif. have not determined whether the large exposition will be live, or forced to go all-virtual as other events have in the West and elsewhere.

The World Ag Expo takes place each February. Given its size, deadlines throughout the year are set to hold vendor space and order the large tents and portable generators needed for the event.

World Ag Expo Spokesperson Jennifer Fawkes says no firm decision has been made to do anything other than what typically takes place each year – a large, live agricultural exposition that plays host to about 100,000 attendees from around the world. Last year's event took place just as COVID-19 concerns were being made known worldwide and travel restrictions from China were being enacted by the United States.

"We don't want to pull the plug too early," she said when asked what timelines the organization has developed to warn visitors and vendors of a likely change. A deadline of Nov. 30 is currently in place to determine in what form the event will happen.

Tulare County, California has been on Gov. Gavin Newsom's "watch list" for COVID case counts as state officials continue to report unacceptable levels of the virus. COVID case counts from the San Joaquin Valley have been high for months, causing state officials to mandate people wear masks, shutter businesses, and restrict travel, all in reported attempts to control the spread of the virus.

Fawkes says farm show officials are working with the local health department and other government agencies to decide on the fate of the big event. Cancellation policy changes were made mid-year as it was apparent companies were already looking ahead to 2021 and were deciding whether to attend or cancel their reservations for vendor space.

While Fawkes did not rule out a virtual show, the goal remains a live event. Already large events such as the annual Almond Conference each December in Sacramento, and the Unified Wine and Grape Symposium a month later in the same location have already told attendees and vendors to expect virtual-only events due to the uncertainty of continued COVID restrictions.

In addition to the annual farm show, other smaller events held at the International Agricenter in Tulare were cancelled this year because of the COVID restrictions.

About the Author(s)

Todd Fitchette

Associate Editor, Western Farm Press

Todd Fitchette, associate editor with Western Farm Press, spent much of his journalism career covering agriculture in California and the western United States. Aside from reporting about issues related to farm production, environmental regulations and legislative matters, he has extensive experience covering the dairy industry, western water issues and politics. His journalistic experience includes local daily and weekly newspapers, where he was recognized early in his career as an award-winning news photographer.

Fitchette is US Army veteran and a graduate of California State University, Chico. 

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