Great Expectations: Equip Expo

Equip Exposition organizers and exhibitors describe what attendees can expect from this year's show.

Attendees of Equip Expo can get their hands dirty at the show's outdoor demo area.
Attendees of Equip Expo can get their hands dirty at the show's outdoor demo area.
Equip Expo

With a new name, increased exhibitor space and a record-breaking number of expected attendees, the 2022 Equip Expo is sure to meet the “great expectations” that precede it.

Formerly GIE+EXPO, the show was renamed in 2021 and is now under complete control of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI).

“We reimagined the show in its entirety,” says Kris Kiser, president and CEO of OPEI.OPEI took full ownership of the show for ’22, so the management shifted after nearly 40 years. We wanted to look at it as a whole and to take into account what our attendees have asked us for. We want it to be experiential. We’ve created everything at the show to house them, educate them, feed them, etc.”

Kiser and exhibitors at this year’s show dig into what attendees can expect from the new and improved Equip Expo.

By the Numbers

This year’s show will boast nearly 1,000 exhibits and, with an expanded outdoor area over last year, 30 acres of outdoor demo space.

“Right now, we’re running right with last year’s show as far as attendance numbers,” said Kiser in mid-August. “This will be the largest show ever. We've sold the most indoor square feet and most outdoor square feet in the history of the show, and Hardscape North America, our co-locating partner, has sold out their block, as well.”

Overall, the show is almost 40 years old and in 2019 was the sixth largest show in the country. The show has also doubled down on its location in Louisville, Ky., committing to the city for years to come.

“It’s easy to get to in that we are not a Vegas show. We're not bringing people to an entertainment venue. This is a business show,” says Kiser, who recently relocated to Louisville himself. “Folks are here to do work and to learn about the machines. Perhaps most important is the outdoor demo yard—it’s the only facility of its kind in the country that allows attendees to mow, cut and dig, and it’s 30 acres. We take advantage of that.”

Several manufacturers agree with Kiser’s sentiment.

“We’re excited about the ‘family reunion’ feel for the industry and a great place to reengage with end users, dealers and the media,” says Ken Osberg, director of marketing for Echo. “Equip is a must-see event for everyone, but it’s also a one-stop shop for pros to see new products and, more importantly, try them out in the demo area. Attendance outside seems to increase year after year, and Echo is excited to get our product in their hands.”

Other manufacturers discuss how the show gives them a chance to connect with and listen to end users.

“Attending Equip Expo gives us the opportunity to connect with the incredible green industry business owners and operators to hear firsthand the challenges they are facing and how we can partner to help them exceed their goals,” says William Chaney, FieldRoutes CEO. “We hope to learn more detail about the challenges, opportunities and goals facing businesses in the current economic environment. We look forward to showcasing how our platform can provide solutions to counter the effects of high fuel prices, inflation, and labor shortages.”

While some items to the show will remain the same, new additions to this year’s show include:

  • In addition to registration kiosks available on-site at the KEC in the South Wing lobby registration area, kiosks are also available at select hotels and the airport. Additionally, there’s free parking to cut down on traffic at the KEC entrance gate.
  • The Welcome Reception will be held at Louisville Slugger Field on Tuesday, Oct. 18, from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. and will include free food and fireworks and a chance to meet colleagues before the show kicks off the next morning.
  • A new coffee shop, sponsored by Ego, will be set up in the South Wing Lobby C, adjacent to the new Equip retail store. Freedom Hall, KEC’s food hall, will offer food trucks and three days of themed buffets (Taste of Kentucky, Southern BBQ, Little Italy). The Outdoor Food Yard will feature food trucks and tented spaces to sit and relax.
  • The Outdoor Demo Yard will feature an expanded UTV Test Track, allowing licensed drivers over age 16 try the newest models.
  • The inaugural Mulligan’s Fun Run/Walk 5K, sponsored by Ariens Co., will benefit the Kentucky Humane Society. Run/walk across the Ohio River on the city’s Big Four pedestrian bridge and in sight of Louisville’s Great Lawn on Wednesday morning, Oct. 19 at 7 a.m.
  • Lucky’s Mutt Madness, sponsored by the TurfMutt Foundation in partnership with the Kentucky Humane Society, brings a bevy of rescue dogs available for adoption to Freedom Hall on Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. One lucky family who adopts a dog will not only receive a yard makeover but will also be featured on a TV series surrounding Expo that will be broadcast on CBS.
  • The Concert Series at 4th Street LIVE! will feature American country music singer and multiplatinum icon, Trace Adkins at 8 p.m. on Thursday night, plus Expo favorite and house band, The Crashers at 8 p.m. on Wednesday night.
  • A new closing keynote breakfast will feature National Geographic’s Photo Ark creator Joel Sartore. Attendees can add this event to their registration for $15 per person.

Topping off this year’s new programs and events, Kiser also emphasizes the importance of the show’s educational sessions to help landscape pros effectively run their businesses.

“Now, a lot of landscape contractors are trying to figure out 'how do I keep my employees year round? How can I keep my employees engaged? How can I get some diversification?' So, whether it's like tree care, light irrigation, trenching, holiday lighting, hardscape or pool and spa, we're bringing all those people in to help us educate our attendees who want education in those spaces.”

Trends to Keep an Eye On

While COVID wreaked havoc on many other industries, the green industry weathered the storm as people invested in their outdoor spaces.

“COVID was actually very good for the business because people reconnected to the outdoors and are tailoring that outdoor space for their needs. That looks to be a trend that's holding,” Kiser says. “Our big manufacturers have looked at that done a lot of research to tailor that space outdoor space for their needs.”

While COVID was good for business, the green industry is still contending with some major challenges, namely labor shortages and new, expected emissions regulations.

With that in mind, battery-powered and autonomous products will garner a lot of attention at this year’s show.

“Like any new technology, battery-powered professional lawn maintenance equipment has been slowly becoming more popular, and we’re now at the point where crews are ready to incorporate these smart, connected solutions into their fleets,” says Jared Nuessen, product marketing manager at Toro. “This trend is being driven by three things: enhanced technology supporting truly commercial grade mowing equipment, government programs driving electric adoption and customers requiring use of battery-powered equipment on their property."

Aaron Griffith, national sales manager of professional products at Cub Cadet, agrees.

“While gas-powered mowers continue to dominate the commercial space, market and regulatory forces are driving manufacturers to concept and develop electric-powered machines to respond to growing landscaper demand,” Griffith says. “Autonomous technologies are also shaping the future of mower design, especially with landscapers grappling with widespread labor shortages and increased overhead.”

In addition to autonomous and electric products, attendees are also looking for products that will up their efficiency and productivity. 

“Over the years, we’ve seen people asking for more power and performance out of their machinery, and I don’t see that trend stopping any time soon,” says Brant Kukuk, compact equipment product manager at Ditch Witch. “The labor shortage is a real problem in this industry, and green industry professionals demand equipment to be extremely versatile, reliable and strong.”

Make The Most of Your Show

1. Plan your stops. Use the map in the app to figure out the best route.

2. Give yourself enough time to attend the education sessions and visit the booths you’d like to see.

3. Wear comfortable shoes and clothing. There’s a lot of ground to cover. Check the weather ahead of time so you know what to wear outdoors.