This year’s trade show exhibit hall seems to have noticeably fewer booths than in past years. (This picture labeled “Where’s Gibson?” demonstrates this point admirably. Other long-time exhibitors notably absent are Huber Banjos and The Murphy Method.) Walking through the hall on Tuesday also revealed many booths with people’s names on them, but no one there. The mystery of those deserted spots was solved on Wednesday when the one-day exhibitors set up. A one-day option is new this year and we’ll have to wait until the dust settles to find out whether these businesses felt it was worth their while to come set up for just one day.
This year is also the first year that the official showcase bands received their own booths, which no doubt helped to fill up the available (unsold) booth space.
Vendors’ impressions of hall traffic varied. Bob Fehr at Martin Guitars said that business was very slow; Rienk Janssen of The European Bluegrass Music Association, who was reading a book at his booth when I stopped to talk, agreed that things were slow, but perhaps not more so than last year. I told him he should get a really good book and that would guarantee that people would be constantly interrupting him. Laurie Matheson from the University of Illinois Press said that business wasn’t exactly booming, but it was steady.
The single exception to this trend is Bluegrass Unlimited, which is offering a tote bag stuffed full of truly great stuff for renewing your subscription. They’ve sold more than 175 subscriptions and renewals so far and have around 70 left, so if you want yours, act fast!