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Best Show Yet

From a business perspective, Prince George's Forest Expo 2000 was the best show yet.

By Jim Stirling

Achieving unanimity from 400 perspectives is impossible, but the consensus reaction to Forest Expo 2000-held May 11 to 13-is that it was the best show yet from a business point of view.

And that is interesting because figures were down modestly from the last show held in Prince George, British Columbia in 1998. Final figures for the biennial show, held at the city's Exhibition Park, were still being calculated at press time, but Forest Expo 2000 attracted 397 exhibitors (versus 444 in 1998) occupying 753 booth spaces (789) and the three-day event was attended by about 22,000 people (22,800).

But Forest Expo general manager Trudy Swaan and her staff report that, according to polling done during and after the show, an overwhelming number of exhibitors were meeting and doing business with the right customers.

Past contributors to Forest Expo's growth were recognized in a thoughtful way with the main routes around the Exhibition Park complex marked with signposts recognizing the show's past chairmen and other show supporters.

There were plenty of head-turning displays at Forest Expo. As with previous shows, manufacturers used Forest Expo as the launching pad for new machines, technologies and products.

Forest Expo attracted close to 400 exhibitors and was attended by about 22,000 people. Polling both during and after the show indicated that exhibitors were meeting and doing business with the right customers.

Figures may be down slightly but interest was up, she says. "I really feel we came into our own this time as Canada's top forestry show," she adds. Further examples of how Forest Expo generates interest were the participants who came to the show looking for a dealer or distributor for their product or service.

Some of these were international exhibitors attending Forest Expo for the first time, explains Swaan. A lot of them left as happy campers, she says.

Forest Expo has always been used as a launching pad for new forestry machines, technologies and products. Every exhibitor featured a new take or improvement on their wares for 2000.

The all-sector diversity of Forest Expo includes many other elements. Industry seminars at the University of Northern BC attracted overflow crowds. Touring school children received a firsthand impression of the forest industry. A crew from the Outdoor Life Network filmed the skills and camaraderie in the loggers' sports amphitheatre. Public participation in Forest Expo was actively encouraged. And, as ever, more than 100 volunteers came through to make it seem the show was running itself.

The all-sector diversity of Forest Expo includes many other elements. Industry seminars at the University of Northern BC attracted overflow crowds.

Forest Expo's designated charity since 1998 has been the Prince George Hospice Society. Final figures were unavailable, but it appears the society will benefit from Forest Expo's charity auction to the tune of about $100,000. The society runs a home in Prince George where family and friends of terminally ill patients can spend time together in comfort and dignity. It's a comfortable home environment where families can visit loved ones 24 hours a day, says Mike Podger, chairman of the volunteer group organizing the auction.

"Donelda Carson, the hospice society's executive director, and all her volunteers do a marvelous job," he adds. Past contributors to Forest Expo's growth and development were recognized in a neat and thoughtful way at this year's show. The main routes around the Exhibition Park complex were marked with signposts and bench seating recognizing the show's past chairmen. It was B Fehr Road, for instance, for Bill Fehr, chairman of the organizing group for the first show at Exhibition Park in 1985 and again in 1986 and 1990.

Other thoroughfares included (John) Desimone Drive (1988), (Leonard) Zirnhelt Lane (1992), (John) Kelly Strip (1994), (Terry) Brown Crescent (1996), (Larry) Josephson Street (1998) and (Curt) Wallach Way (2000).

Forest Expo's roots are commemorated with CILA (Central Interior Logging Association) Court inside the front gates and Roland St Armand Boulevard. St Armand, who died in 1999, was a long time logging contractor in Prince George, friend to the forest industry, tireless ambassador for CILA and a founding director of Forest Expo.

While Forest Expo's reputation continues to grow nationally and internationally, it also retains a good deal of influence at home. When forest company giant Canfor realized a maintenance shutdown for its Prince George pulp mill coincided with Forest Expo's dates, the company went to work. Accommodation is at a premium in Prince George during the show, and pulp shutdowns require an influx of specialty construction trades. To its credit, Canfor switched its shutdown timetable.

The show organizers say that's a true indication of the kind of community-minded corporation Canfor really is, says Curt Wallach, Forest Expo's chairman.

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This page last modified on Tuesday, February 17, 2004