Signs of the times: Occupancy 'limits' show how big a space is needed for refrigeration-related expos.
Signs of the times: Occupancy ‘limits’ show how big a space is needed for refrigeration-related expos.

When I think of how big and complex our industry is, I see it most reflected in the limited number of places the refrigeration shows I have attended can be held.

For example, the National Restaurant Association show with some 2,000 exhibitors is always in Chicago. The Food Marketing Institute Expo — which once was larger, but still is big — has hovered between Las Vegas and Chicago in recent years. And the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigerating Exposition pretty much has moved between Las Vegas, Dallas, Orlando, New York City, and Chicago — with Chicago every third year — because those large cities have big convention centers and lots of hotel rooms.

Between this past May and this coming January, the three noted shows are all in Chicago at McCormick Place. According to the McCormick website, there is 2.6 million-sq.-ft. of exhibit space. I have no idea what that means but when I was at a show there a few months ago, I saw an occupancy sign on the wall that said the maximum number of people that could be in one hall  was 17,664 and in another hall was 6,117. That seemed to relate to halls in the North Building. In the meantime, the complex also had South and West buildings.

Okay, that’s a lot of people looking at a lot of products. And frankly that is what refrigeration shows have become, the showing of a lot of products — many, many of which are important or will become important to contractors and service technicians.

While our industry is big and complex, it is also challenging. And these big expos are where you see the changes firsthand. Here are the pieces, parts, components, tools, test instruments, controls, etc., that could end up on wholesalers shelves and what you will be working with when you are on a job site doing an install, a retrofit, or a service job.

Yes, it is daunting, but refrigeration is not for the weak of heart.