Green Industry Trade Shows: An Ever-Changing Landscape

Green Industry Trade Shows: An Ever-Changing Landscape

Industry Exhibitions Always Evolving

Over the past several decades Ohio’s green industry has continued to evolve.

It’s become an art, a profession, a business, a science on the cutting edge of biotechnology, and an industry. Its associated organizations and trade shows have evolved as well.

Let’s look at some recent changes to green industry trade shows with an Ohio connection.

From CENTS to MGIX to MidwestGREEN

The annual trade show for the Ohio Green Industry Association (OGIA, formerly ONLA) has experienced multiple iterations over the years. For more than half a century – from 1964 through 2016 – the show was known as the Central Environmental Nursery Trade Show, or CENTS.

CENTS 2015

In its peak year of 2002, CENTS showcased 1,357 booths that were occupied by 710 exhibitors, and the number of registered attendees topped 13,000. In subsequent years, however, show attendance began to dwindle, as more green industry professionals chose to transact business online.

In 2017, the event was rebranded as Midwest Green Industry Experience, or MGIX — in an effort to include more of its diverse audience —  and the roster of educational sessions was expanded. The trade show itself was expanded in 2018. Then, later that year, the association revamped the MGIX format into a series of networking programs and dropped the trade show altogether.

Well, now it’s back – in a limited capacity and under a new name: MidwestGREEN.

This year, in addition to keynote speakers, multi-track educational sessions, and round table discussions, MidwestGREEN, will also offer 50 exhibition booths for showcasing and demonstrating products in a scaled setting.

 MidwestGREEN is scheduled for Nov. 1-3,
at the Columbus Convention Center.

From OFA Short Course to Cultivate

You may know Cultivate as the national trade show hosted annually by the American Horticulture Association (AmericanHort). The event has been held every year (except for 2020) at the Columbus Convention Center since the organization was formed in 2014.

What you may not know is that the trade show traces its roots back to 1930. That’s when the Ohio Florist Association (OFA) held its first Short Course event in a Columbus hotel. By 1964, the Short Course had expanded to 50 booths and drew 1,000 attendants. That figure more than doubled by 1981. With 259 booths, the venue was changed to the Ohio Center and the Hyatt Regency Columbus Hotel.

Cultivate 2021. Photo: AmericanHort.

Ten years later, the Short Course trade show moved to Cincinnati and expanded to 599 exhibitors. By that time, 77% of OFA membership was located outside of Ohio. So the organization changed its name to the Association of Horticulture Professionals. (But it kept the OFA acronym.)

The event moved back to Columbus in 1998 — and there it has stayed. By 2004, the Short Course had become the industry’s preeminent trade show and education series; overall attendance topped 9,800 that year.

Still Growing

By the time the next decade dawned, Short Course was the largest horticulture show in the U.S., as well as one of the largest trade shows of any type in North America.

Then in 2014, OFA merged with the 138-year-old American Nursery and Landscape Association (ANLA) to form AmericanHort. Today, the organization boasts a national and international membership of more than 20,000 green industry professionals.

Following in the footsteps of the OFA Short Course, Cultivate has now become one of the largest trade shows in the country, with more than 650 exhibitors and 100+ educational sessions.

Cultivate ’22 is scheduled for July 16-19, at the Columbus Convention Center.

From GIE+EXPO to Equip Exposition

The trade show that became the Green Industry & Equipment Expo (GIE+EXPO) began in 1984 as the International Lawn, Garden & Power Equipment Exposition. For more than 20 years the show’s venue has been just over the river at the Kentucky Exposition Center, making it a must-attend event for many Ohio green industry professionals.

OPEI Through the Years

  • 1952: Eleven manufacturers charter the Lawn Mower Institute, a nonprofit trade association.
  • 1956: Engine manufacturers are invited to join the organization.
  • 1960: The association changes its name to the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute.
  • 1962: OPEI becomes a member of the American Standards Association (now the American National Standards Institute).
  • 1984: OPEI launches the International Lawn, Garden & Power Equipment Exposition (EXPO), the industry’s first trade show.
  • 2001: OPEI merges with the Portable Power Equipment Manufacturers Association (PPEMA).
  • 2007: OPEI merges the International Lawn, Garden & Power Equipment Exposition with the Green Industry Expo, creating GIE+EXPO.
  • 2010: Hardscape North America (HNA) co-locates with GIE+EXPO.
  • 2017: GIE+EXPO is named the 10th largest trade show in the United States.
  • 2021: OPEI rebrands GIE+EXPO as Equip Exposition and opens a branch office in Louisville.

The event is managed by OPEI, the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute. (See sidebar, “OPEI Through the Years.”)

In 2007, OPEI partnered with the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) and the Professional Grounds Management Society (PGMS) to create GIE+EXPO.

In 2010, hardscape and outdoor living products were added to the show when Hardscape North America (HNA) co-located with GIE+EXPO. For many years running, this green industry exposition has reported record attendance and exhibit space; by 2019 it was the sixth largest trade show in the United States.

Like most live exhibitions, GIE+EXPO went virtual for 2020. But in 2021 it came back with a bang, boasting increased attendance numbers (about 24,000) from all segments of the green industry.

At that time, OPEI introduced a new name and brand for the annual event: Equip Exposition. The organization also opened a branch office in Louisville, demonstrating its dedication to the show and its investment in the host city.

The 2022 expo will once again feature more than 1,000 exhibits throughout its 675,000-sq.-ft. showroom and 20-acre outdoor demonstration area.

Equip Exposition is scheduled for October 19 through October 21, at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville.

Featured Image: Equip Exposition
GPN Magazine
OPE Business

They’re Back! A Return to Live Trade Shows

They’re Back! A Return to Live Trade Shows

Green Industry Welcomes the
Return of Live Events

As America begins to normalize in the aftermath of COVID, green industry professionals eagerly anticipate the return of live trade shows.

Still, these exhibitions could look a little different this year. Here are a few post-pandemic changes which trade show attendees can expect:

  • There may be fewer exhibition booths, with wider aisles, to accommodate social distancing.
  • There may also be limited to the number of attendees for certain events and pre-registration may be required for some presentations.
  • Plenty of hand-sanitizing stations, and masks may be required for all attendees at some trade shows, depending on location.
  • Some trade shows may incorporate a “hybrid” approach, offering both physical and virtual components.

Irrigation and green industry professionals are hailing the return of two particular live trade show events, GIE+EXPO (the Green Industry & Equipment Expo) and the 2021 Irrigation Show.


Dates: October 20-22, 2021
Place: Kentucky Exposition Center, Louisville KY

Touted as the green industry’s largest trade show, GIE+EXPO is more than ready to return after last year’s pandemic-related cancellation.

Warren Sellers, trade show manager, has stated that both exhibitors and attendees are clamoring to get back together in person. A recent survey revealed that 91% of landscape professionals who are past attendees are likely to attend this year’s expo.

Mutt Madness

The TurfMutt Foundation, through a partnership with the Kentucky Humane Society, will once again sponsor Mutt Madness at GIE+EXPO on Thursday, October 21, from 11:00 to 2:00.

Expo attendees can take a break from the show floor to visit and/or adopt rescue dogs in Freedom Hall. At the 2019 Mutt Madness, 15 dogs found their forever homes.

The 2021 GIE+EXPO will once again include:

  • More than 20 acres of outdoor demonstration area
  • Arborist and hardscape demonstrations
  • New products spotlight
  • Plenty of workshops and educational opportunities

Plus, new this year will be:

  • A UTV test track
  • A hands-on Drone Zone
  • Technology Summit presented by the National Association of Landscape Professionals

Of particular interest to irrigation professionals is the Irrigation Symposium, “Landscape Irrigation 2021: Opportunities and Challenges,” hosted by the Irrigation Association and scheduled for Wednesday, October 20. A panel of irrigation experts will share real-world analyses and solutions for the landscape irrigation industry. Cost for the session is $85 and pre-registration is required.

2021 Irrigation Show & Education Week

Dates: December 6-10, 2021
Place: San Diego Convention Center, San Diego CA

The focus of the 2021 Irrigation Show is connecting irrigation professionals with the suppliers of irrigation technology, products, and services via in-person networking. This year, there will be no keynote address or general session, and the traditional opening night reception will now be a Craft Brewfest, sponsored by Hunter Industries, on the showroom floor.

Education Week Seminars

Below is a listing of landscape irrigation seminars sponsored by Site One, which are being offered during IA’s Education Week. Click the course title for additional information.

Do the Math

The IA will be offering a FREE Math Tutorial on Tuesday evening, December 7. The two-hour intensive tutorial will provide a review of the most common formulas and calculations used when designing, installing, auditing and maintaining irrigation systems.

Beginner Courses:

Intermediate Courses

Advanced Courses

Business Courses (Intermediate)


For all of the above-listed courses…

Certification Courses

In addition, from Dec. 7-10, the IA and Site One will be offering a network of in-person written certification exams for the following:

Featured Image: GIE+EXPO
Express Business Center
Irrigation Association


Virtual Trade Shows – What You Need to Know

Virtual Trade Shows – What You Need to Know

From Simple to Sophisticated, This Year’s
Trade Shows Have Gone Virtual

You log on to the trade show website at the designated time, where you’re greeted by Tony, a three-dimensional, fully animated avatar.

Tony provides you with a guided tour of the entire exposition center, including the auditorium, break-out discussion rooms, exhibit hall, virtual lounge, and information booth.

Welcome to the world of virtual trade shows, where real-time demonstrations and interactions are commonplace. While the COVID-19 pandemic has put the kibosh on in-person trade shows this year (including the 2020 Irrigation Show), virtual shows have stepped up to fill in the gap.

These shows offer numerous benefits: they can save both time and money, and they can extend a company’s global reach. But virtual events are not without their own challenges. For instance, they must present compelling content that will keep their audience continually engaged.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when sponsoring, exhibiting at, or attending a virtual show…

Sponsoring a Virtual Trade Show

The first question you need to ask yourself as a virtual trade show sponsor is: How sophisticated do I want my show to be? Virtual shows run the gamut from simple online interviews and basic webinars to second-generation avatars like Tony, who can move from booth to booth and event to event.

If you choose to go with the basic approach requiring no special technical platform, make sure your presentation materials are concise, engaging and memorable. Unlike in-person shows, virtual attendees can move on at the click of a button, so keep it short and sweet. Trim down your keynote speeches and webinars to make them more sharp and focused. Interaction is key, so be sure there’s some sort of online chat or Q and A function.

—Article Continues Below—

At the other end of the spectrum, there’s a plethora of virtual event vendors who offer a wide range of capabilities. The most sophisticated platforms help create the same energy as a physical show, with 360-degree imaging and attendee-controlled avatars that move around the exhibit hall.

When selecting a platform, choose one that can be tailored to your specific needs. For example, is your primary goal to educate your attendees? Then you may want to focus on the “auditorium” section of the platform, where online classes and demonstrations are presented. If, on the other hand, product exhibition is your focus, try to provide multiple capabilities to the vendors—such as live chats with company reps and other attendees, guest speaker-hosted sessions, contact forms for lead capture and reporting, downloadable brochures and videos.

Networking is a key component of any trade show — virtual or otherwise. Which is why many vendors offer a virtual lounge for both standard and video chats.


As a sponsor or exhibitor, you can help facilitate networking by scheduling group chats or posting discussion topics.


Regardless of your approach, it’s best to combine both pre-recorded and live elements for your virtual show.  For instance, you can string together pre-recorded clips with live introductions, or provide live break-out sessions following pre-recorded classes.

One final tip: Whichever format you choose, make sure the navigation is simple and easy to follow, to keep from losing your audience.

For Exhibitors and Attendees

Before you participate in a virtual trade show—especially as an exhibitor—you may wish to ask the show’s organizers a few questions, such as:

  1. When was the show first launched? If it’s has been around for several years, it should already have established a following. On the other hand, if the virtual show is fresh out the gates, there would be no data to ascertain its success. But you’ll want to make sure these measures are put into place. (See Question 7,  below.)
  2. What is the cost to participate, and what does that include? Most trade show organizers offer exhibitors an online booth for posting videos, white papers and demos. They may also have live chat capability. Above all, make sure there’s a way to capture leads.
  3. What are the show’s beginning and end dates? Typically a virtual show remains open for the same duration as the physical trade show, and then extends 30 to 60 days after the show. So it’s important to know if your participation fee is buying you 10 days or 60 days. Also, check into how long attendees will have access to your online exhibit. You’ll want to be able to update it to keep the information fresh.
  4. How will the show be promoted? Both in-person and virtual shows require a strong promotional strategy in order to be successful. Show producers should use multiple promotional methods to reach previous in-person trade show attendees as well as other members of your target audience.
  5. Is a demo available? Ask the show sponsors for a demo, so you can experience the look and feel of the virtual show just like the attendees and other exhibitors will. Also, if your staff is not familiar with the various virtual show features, will they have access to a tutorial?
  6. Is there an emergency contact? Virtual trade shows require adequate technical support. Make sure you’re provided with contact information in the event of any problem, technical or otherwise.
  7. What tracking and reporting mechanisms will be used? You’ll want detailed information about who attended the show, which booths they visited and for how long, which documents they downloaded, and what questions they asked.

Some Final Tips

When staffing your virtual booth, it’s important to select reps with strong digital communication skills, as well as product knowledge and relationship-building skills. Make sure the reps you choose can express themselves well in electronic communications and are comfortable with video conferencing.

Prospects love to hear from people like them. So make sure your virtual booth allows reps to share testimonials, unique facts and compelling statistics. Your message should cut through the clutter and prompt attendees to stay engaged.

Featured Image: Adobe, License Granted


2020 Irrigation Show Will Be Virtual

2020 Irrigation Show Will Be Virtual

IA Offering a Host of Webinars
for Education Week

First, the bad news: The national Irrigation Association’s 2020 Irrigation Show, originally scheduled for Nov. 30-Dec. 4 in San Antonio, has been cancelled due to social distancing requirements.

Now, the good news: The educational component of the traditional Irrigation Show will be offered virtually as part of the IA’s Education Week, Nov. 30-Dec. 4. These webinars will include IA University classes normally offered in person.

Education Week Webinars

Below is a listing of the landscape irrigation webinars sponsored by Site One, which are scheduled for Education Week. Click the course link for additional information.

Beginner Courses:


The IA will be offering a FREE Math Tutorial during Education Week, Nov. 30-Dec.4. The one-hour tutorial will provide an intensive review of the most common calculations and formulas used in irrigation system design, installation, audits and maintenance.

Intermediate Courses

Advanced Courses

Business Courses (Intermediate)

Certification Courses

In addition, from Dec.7-18, the IA and Site One will be offering a network of in-person written certification exams after completion of the following Education Week courses:


For all of the above-listed courses…

Trade Show Networking

A primary component of any trade show is the social networking. To this end, the IA is continuing to work with exhibitors in an effort to offer networking opportunities, as well as to deliver information on cutting-edge irrigation technologies, products and services.

Looking for a particular vendor or product? Then check out the IA Preferred Vendor Directory, where you’ll find a list of all virtual show exhibitors and contact information. You can also peruse the various entries in the 2020 New Product Contest and cast your vote by Nov. 18 by for the most innovative products or services.

Featured Image: Pixabay
Irrigation Association 

Irrigation Show 2018 Is Set

Irrigation Show 2018 Is Set

December 3-7 at the Long Beach Convention
and Entertainment Center

Irrigation Show 2018 is the only national trade show designed specifically for irrigation professionals.

It’s where the irrigation industry comes together to network, learn and promote irrigation. (Did you know it’s also the world’s biggest irrigation trade show?)

Register by Nov. 1 to save on education classes, full registration and exhibits. Discount housing is also open, and attendees can book their hotel online.

To download the Irrigation Association’s 24-page Registration Brochure, click here.

More than 4,000 distributors, dealers, contractors, consultants and growers are expected to attend this year’s event in Long Beach, California. You’ll have the opportunity to:

  • Check out new and innovative products, technologies and services.
  • Explore new suppliers.
  • Learn about the latest business trends and irrigation best practices.
  • Network with current business partners and with industry leaders who share the Ohio IA’s commitment to efficient irrigation.

New This Year: Radio Row

Radio Row is a dedicated space for radio stations and podcasts from across the country to provide live broadcasts and interviews with irrigation professionals and experts attending the Irrigation Show. See some of your favorite ag radio and podcast hosts live and in action.

irrigation showExtended Floor Hours

This year, show floor hours have been extended to 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 5, and 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 6.

Educational Opportunities

You can discover great ideas, learn new skills and earn CEUs with some of the industry’s most experienced professionals. Landscape irrigation topics for educational classes at this year’s Irrigation Show include:

  • Pumps and Soils
  • Landscape Irrigation Design
  • Advanced Irrigation Wiring Methods
  • Hydraulic Troubleshooting
  • Alternative Water for Landscape Irrigation
  • Landscape Drip Irrigation Design
  • Two-Wire Technology Systems for Landscapes
  • The Business of Landscape Irrigation Contracting

One-hour seminars will provide detailed coverage on a focused topic in landscape irrigation. Seminars are open to all attendees with a full registration. Participants will earn 1.00 CEU for each hour. This year’s topics will include:

  • Weather-Based Irrigation Controllers
  • Low-Impact Development and Irrigation
  • Impacts of Irrigation in Building Rating Systems
  • Using Drones to Improve Irrigation Management

Certification Exams

Exams for the following certification programs will also be available at this year’s Irrigation Show:

Irrigation Association
Landscape Management