It was a full house of exhibitors and attendees at the NRA expo in Chicago with booths backing up nearly to the outer walls of McCormick Place (with adequate room, of course, for evacuation routes had they been needed).
OK, so I was wrong. Well, let's just say I wasn't 100 percent correct. I'm referring to my June 5 column in which I noted the trend for many expos is to go to an every other year format; the primary reason being the cost of exhibiting and/or attending on an every year basis versus the return on investment. But there are expos that are still held every year and do very well, thank you.

Case in point is the Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show of the National Restaurant Association (NRA) that took place in Chicago. (See "Trends Off in Many Directions" in this issue.)

I wrote my June 5 column just before the NRA Show took place. Then I arrived at McCormick Place in Chicago on a Sunday (of all days), which was the second day of the four-day show, and found a packed house both in terms of exhibitors and attendees.

NRA issued a press release stating that there were 2,100 exhibitors and that space was literally at capacity. And this was at McCormick Place that, along with convention centers in Las Vegas and Orlando, is among the largest venues of its kind in the United States.

To give you some idea of how big the show was, those of you who attended the International Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigerating Exposition in Chicago this past winter noted a pretty full house of exhibitors in the main exhibition halls in the North and South buildings. But at the NRA expo, those halls were so filled with exhibitors that some booths backed up as close to emergency exit signs as I've ever seen at McCormick Place. (Please note I say this with the understanding that all safety codes and evacuation routes were fully functional.)

In addition, the NRA show utilized another large exhibit hall under the main floor of the North Building where hundreds more exhibitors showed wares and an ice carving competition went on as well.

One appeal for exhibitors was the fact that the show drew close to 75,000 persons. The theory is that such a large number would by percentage draw a good number of the right types of persons the exhibitor wants to see.

I was there mainly to focus on the refrigeration aspect such as ice machines, coolers, and freezers and I was especially impressed with the large number of new and interesting products our industry's manufacturers were showing. At the same time, those same manufacturers have another exhibiting option every other year with the National Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers (NAFEM) expo. (I'm sure there are even more expos for the manufacturers; but NRA and NAFEM are two of the five big refrigeration shows I cover regularly, along with the Food Marketing Institute Expo, IKK, and IAHR.)

While at such expos I'm frequently asked, "What do you think of the show?" Afterwards I'm asked, "What did you think of it?" I'm suspecting those asking are wondering about turnout or the quality of the attendees.

But my goal is to search out new products and especially interesting technologies that I think would be of interest to our readers. If I can discover quite a number of those, the expos - be they annual or every other year - are a success.

Peter Powell, Refrigeration Editor, 847-622-7260, 847-622-7266 (fax),

Publication date: 07/03/2006