Down farm economy doesn't stop Big Iron from attracting vendors, visitors
FARGO, N.D. -- Attendance at farm shows across the region this summer has lagged a bit. No one has to ask why, given low commodity prices and poor weather conditions. But even if the crowds that come in are smaller, people are still visiting and ...
FARGO, N.D. - Attendance at farm shows across the region this summer has lagged a bit. No one has to ask why, given low commodity prices and poor weather conditions. But even if the crowds that come in are smaller, people are still visiting and vendors are still looking to talk to their customers.
At the Big Iron Farm Show, held Sept. 9-12 at the Red River Valley Fairgrounds, attendance wasn't an issue. The first day, which followed a 2-inch rain in the area, Red River Valley Fair Association general manager Bryan Schulz called attendance "phenomenal."
Schulz said visitors keep coming to Big Iron in part because it's a free show. There are no fees for attendance or parking. But the show offers more than just a free experience.
"We're a multitude of things. We have got great speakers in our issues and events center. People come out here for health screening. We've got a great set up here. We've got the bloodmobile here. We offer opportunities for people to learn," Schulz said. "It's also the newest, latest and greatest, and that's what we really strive for when we set up our show."
Vendors said they've noticed the lower attendance at other shows this summer. Todd Frederick, who works in sales for Amber Waves, a Richardton, N.D., grain storage company, said the "quiet" at the shows is understandable.
"Guys are sitting on two years of commodities. Prices aren't very good so cash flow is down," he said. "But there's still an interest. They're out, looking at products and kind of kicking the tires and, you know, thinking about what they want to do."
Zane Erickson, owner of North Star Ag of Tower City, N.D., said attendance might be down, but morale is still strong. The people who are showing up are "high quality."
"It's an engaged audience," he said.
Schulz said Big Iron was full, with about 600 vendors across the fairgrounds. But there is no longer a waiting list for vendors to get into the show, as there was in previous years.
"With the economy the way it is, we have had several booths who have been with us for years back out because they just can't make it," he said.
However, others have stuck it out, hoping for brighter days.
"Some of them are just saying, 'You know what? It's worth my time and effort to be there. I might not get as many sales as I did in the past, but I need to be there because it's important to my business,'" Schulz said.
Erickson said Big Iron is his company's local show, and it's inexpensive enough "that you don't have to think about coming. It's a good value." More than sales, Erickson said Big Iron and other shows are good opportunities to meet up with customers face-to-face, "not always being on the phone or over email."
Frederick said Big Iron is "one of the better ones" among farm shows.
"Whether it's a great show or not, you gotta be there so people can see what you have," he said. "Obviously, your competition is around, so you don't want to get behind the eight ball. You've gotta be there. Even if you talk to a few people, that can turn into some pretty good sales sometimes."