GIE+EXPO, the international landscape, outdoor living and equipment exposition, will be held as planned this year on October 21- 23 at the Kentucky Exposition Center (KEC) in Louisville, say show organizers who also promise to design and develop a show and educational programming with all necessary safety protocols in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Everyone is asking if GIE+EXPO is happening. What I can say is the show is expected go on. We’re planning for it,” says Kris Kiser, president of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), an international trade association representing manufacturers and suppliers of power equipment, small engines and battery power, utility and personal transport vehicles, and golf cars, and managing partner of GIE+EXPO.
OPEI is actively working with its tradeshow partners—the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) and the Professional Grounds Management Society (PGMS)—to design a safe and responsible event that will offer programming and education that directly addresses the challenges faced by the pandemic. Also returning, held in conjunction with GIE+EXPO, is Hardscape North America, a long-standing, co-located trade show.
“Our partners and our longtime show management, are working hard to create and ensure the safest experience for attendees and exhibitors,” Kiser explains. “The affected conference and meetings, facilities, hotel and food preparation, and transportation industries also are undertaking a significant effort to develop protocols to operate safely in response to the pandemic. We’ll incorporate whatever those industries come up with as best practices.”
Kiser also points out, “GIE+EXPO is fortunately held at the KEC, as it has been the last thirty-eight years. The venue is flexible with multiple outdoor areas and buildings. We can easily spread out. We’ve got a million square feet and twenty acres of outdoor space at the KEC, so we’ve got a lot of room to work with. We have additional buildings such as the West wing, Broadbent Arena and other areas available to us that allow for expanding our show footprint as needed,” he says. “So, bring comfortable shoes because the physical footprint may get bigger to ensure your safety.”
Expansion is not new to GIE+EXPO, which has utilized many of the additional buildings the KEC offers as needed. “Last year we were able to put up a sixty-foot sugar maple in Freedom Hall, and plans are underway for our first-ever Drone Zone and UTV test track this fall,” Kiser says. “The show this year might look a little different, but if you feel safe going to your local garden center, dealership and grocery story, you should feel safe coming to GIE+EXPO.”
Despite potential changes to the show’s design and layout, Kiser says, the tradeshow remains the industry’s “family reunion” for landscapers, hardscapers, equipment dealers, distributors, manufacturers and suppliers. With the equipment and landscape industries deemed essential, many landscapers, dealers, distributors and OEMs have been operating during the COVID-19 pandemic, illustrating the importance of outdoor space and the people who make it.
Kiser adds if there ever was a year to come to the show, the year 2020 is the one to attend. “We are saddened and frustrated by the pandemic situation and the ensuing losses we have faced but there is a need to learn from this, and GIE+EXPO’s leadership has pledged to offer programming that will do just that,” he says. “This year’s show offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience for businesses to get together and learn from one another about a once-in-a-lifetime scenario.”
Kiser also encourages attendees not to wait to register for the event or book hotel stays. “To date,” he says, “registrations and exhibitor space reservations are on par with last year’s record-setting numbers. Anyone waiting to make hotel reservations or to register, don’t. There’s no risk to doing them early. Otherwise, you may not get your hotel of choice.”
He adds that the city of Louisville, restaurants, tourist attractions, shuttle companies, hotels and other venues are preparing protocols to be open for safe and responsible operations.
“As the industry’s family reunion, GIE+EXPO and our host city of Louisville can provide an opportunity for attendees and their families to get away safely,” Kiser says, citing the region’s new arboretum, parks, and other outdoor recreation amenities. “Louisville is easy to drive to and the KEC offers free and expanded parking. Plus October is a great time of year to visit Louisville, and to extend your stay for a much-needed vacation.”
Kiser adds, “We know our world is different, but we will incorporate and utilize the safety protocols of the professionals. So register early and, again, bring those comfortable shoes.”