We Heart Trade Shows

By Chris Blasinsky   read

NACS staff looks back on some of their memorable trade show experiences.

May 05, 2021

Since we’re celebrating the 60th anniversary of NACS this year, let’s take trip down the NACS Show memory lane…

we-heart-trade-shows_Pageimage.jpgThe 1970s was a pivotal decade for NACS—it’s when the NACS Annual Meeting became the industry's must-attend event. Cabana exhibits made up an Equipment Exhibit at the 1973 meeting, and three years later the first full expo was held in Atlanta—a 20,000 net square foot expo.

By the time the 1980s rolled around, the expo changed from every three years to every two until 1986 when it became a permanent component of the meeting, which was also rebranded as the NACS Show. 

Fast-forward to 2018, most will probably remember that the NACS Show in Las Vegas was the biggest NACS Show to date, with 25,159 industry stakeholders from 72 countries and a record-setting NACS expo of 431,800 net square feet.

With the exception of 2020, there’s been a NACS Show for the past 35 years.

Now, we’ve moved mountains before to hold our event, like in 2005 when the NACS Show was scheduled to take place in New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina kept that from happening, but on 10 weeks’ notice we were able to relocate the NACS Show to Las Vegas. As for 2020, there were too many issues beyond anyone’s control to safely hold a NACS Show.

This week we launched NACS Show registration. That’s right, our industry’s must-attend event is taking place October 5-8 in Chicago.

Back to the reminiscing part, because we missed seeing industry colleagues at our live event. And let’s face it—we all missed seeing people in general, whether at other NACS events or other trade shows that had to cancel their live events last year.

Collectively the NACS expo team has more than half a century of trade show experience at NACS. All this expertise and knowledge has led to interesting observations over the years, whether walking the aisles of the NACS Show or other trade shows to check out the latest expo trends.

Now that we’re officially in NACS Show-mode, we thought it would be fun to share some of our memorable experiences to get us ready for welcoming back our industry to the NACS Show.

For example, sometimes the best-laid plans…

“One year I walked by a booth photo op that included the front half of a logo-covered sports car where you could pretend you were behind the wheel. I praised the exhibitor for the fun idea, and he laughed saying that when he ordered it, he thought it was a whole car. ‘Next year, I’ll make sure I get a whole car’ is now a running joke.”

“I walked by a booth that had nothing but an old, used tire with a sign that read ‘Kick Me.’ So, I, along with most who walked by, kicked it. The vendor asked why I did that, and that led to a pitch about his product, which was not used tires. Turns out his booth crate didn’t arrive on time, and this was his clever way of striking up conversations.”

And the good, interesting or not so great new products…

“Years ago, we tried a plant-based product that was hands-down not good. We needed to wash it down and found an energy drink booth and chugged samples like our life depended on it.”

“I’m always looking for new products and innovative ingredients from different countries. So, seasoned dried grasshoppers—no problem. We were pleasantly surprised by the taste but jokingly made sure no legs were stuck in our teeth.”

The celebrity sightings…

“A colleague was super confused when a registration form came in via fax with the names Ice-T and Coco-T. Her initial thought was someone selling iced tea filled out the wrong form. Instead, it was in fact Mr. Ice and his wife registering to be exhibitors of his Liquid Ice energy drink.”

“We met Chuck Norris! His wife and nephew welcomed us into their booth with open arms, and he showed off his pearly whites for a photo op.”

“I walked the NACS Show with Daymond John to show him some cool new things. We stopped by a candy/snack vendor to try some innovative donut toppings and dessert combos that he gave a thumbs-up to.”

And sage advice from exhibitor veterans…

“The NACS Show is more than a show—it is an industry must-attend event. The opportunity to meet and sell to retailers at one venue is second to none.”

“The NACS Show provides companies large and small the opportunity to connect, engage and learn,
as well as highlight their capabilities, solutions and thought leadership. We exhibit at the NACS Show as a part of our company’s commitment to our customers.”

Reminiscing about some of our fun, quirky and entertaining memories solidifies one fact: We’re ready for October. We’re ready to open the doors to McCormick Place and welcome our industry back to the NACS Show.

Mark your calendars.

Chris Blasinsky, NACS content communications strategist, has attended 15 NACS Shows and can’t wait to see everyone this year in Chicago!