What started as a display show for local farmers in a quiet little agricultural community in 1968 has grown for nearly 50 years to become the largest agricultural show in the world. And, with its 1,500 exhibitors and 100,000 visitors, it has come to mean so much not only to the agricultural community, but to the county as a whole.
“It certainly is one of the largest economic impacts that we have,” said Tulare County Supervisor Pete Vander Poel III. Vander Poel’s region is District II, which includes Tulare and the International Agri-Center, where the World Ag Expo is held.
“It’s very positive for hotels, restaurants, retailers and tourism up and down the Valley,” he said, continuing, “Agriculture is the engine of this county and the Central Valley, and most any job here is related to it in some way.”
Newly appointed Tulare Chamber Executive Director Ben Brubaker is looking for even a stronger connection between the City of Tulare and the show.
“How can we establish that relationship so that all businesses benefit, is important,” he said.
Guest services at the show will be handing out short surveys to help with some input, including such questions as: “Where are you staying? How long before or after the show will you spend here?” Brubaker added. “There is a huge opportunity here. We would like to be the go-to organization,” to answer some of those questions.
Brubaker would like the local chamber to partner further with the show and attendees in the future, so that Tulare can help them and keep business local, rather than further up or down the Valley.
It does take some 1,000 to 1,200 volunteers along with regular employees to put on the show, as well as all the local community does and has to offer.
“People sometimes ask what we do the rest of the year,” said Fred Foster, CFO of the International Agri-Center.
It takes a year to organize each upcoming show with a lot of paperwork, and ground work, he said.
And with a waiting list of potential exhibitors, “we start selling for next year’s show at this year’s show,” Foster said.
The Agri-Center was the concept of the 1976 Annual California Farm Equipment Show board of directors which, with others in the local community, formed a corporation to build an international agribusiness showplace in or near Tulare. It was opened at the 15th Annual California Farm Equipment Show and International Exposition, specifically aimed at producing that show and other agricultural events. It now does just that and more.
Much of the year sees bookings for weddings, award dinners, horse shows and sales, and other functions including its second largest event, the California Antique Farm Show in April. It also is home of the AgVentures Learning Center and is host to a fall Harvest Festival.
The World Ag Expo, which was given its current name in 2001, runs Tuesday, February 10 – Thursday, February 12 and is open to the public. Tickets are $15 at the gate. Various commuter buses will run from points in Tulare and Visalia to avoid traffic congestion on site. For more information, see the World Ag Expo website, www.worldagexpo.com.