Sure, agriculture is changing, but face-to-face contact and kicking tires remain important to farmers and dealers alike. That was the message as the eighth-annual Great Bend Farm and Ranch Expo/Trade Show wrapped up its three-day run Friday afternoon at the Expo Complex west town.
And, apparently, weather doesn’t really make a difference.
“Farming is being done with fewer people,” said Darren Dale, owner of Star Expos that puts on the event. “A million people may go through a show, but we’re just looking for the two who buy something. That can make it worthwhile.”
The show opened on a beautiful spring Wednesday, endured a bitter cold, windy Thursday and ended on a chilly, but pleasant Friday. “You get what you get with the weather,” Dale said.
But, such weather changes are a fact of life in Kansas.
The sprawling expo included hundreds of area, national and international vendors and covered 80 acres. Despite the temperatures and wind chills, attendees made the circuit, hitting the outdoor and indoor exhibits.
“It’s been good,” said Great Bend-based Kevin Rose of Heartland Ag, which sells farm chemical application equipment. “It’s been a good show. We were definitely glad we were here.”
They sold some smaller items on-site, but made good contacts on some of their large inventory. “We’ll probably move our larger items, like our sprayers, at a later date. Six months from now, someone will call us and say ‘I saw you at the show.’”
Regardless of what Mother Nature threw at the expo, Rose said they had decent traffic all three days.
Rose said they weren’t alone. He had spoken to other vendors who said the same thing.
“After eight years, what I enjoy most are the people and the stories, and the positive vibes of those involved,” Dale said. There are the hundreds of volunteers it takes to make the show happen, the farmers who could buy elsewhere but choose to support the show, the vendors who make the investment, and the community residents who make the trip just to walk through the exhibits.
“It’s humbling,” he said. The backing he sees here surpasses any he sees at his other events. Dale and his Star Enterprises operate farm shows in McCook, Neb., and Wichita Falls, Texas.
After decades of making a biennial visit to Barton County, 3i Show promoter Eddie Estes announced in 2011 the long-running exhibition would cease alternating between Great Bend and Garden City. Instead, it would permanently stay in Estes’ hometown of Dodge City.
That is when the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce stepped in, Dale said. He credited Jan Peters for helping to find a way to keep the show going here.