The final IAFE Convention in Vegas concluded on Wednesday, ending a tradition begun in 1971 after moving from Chicago to Vegas. The convention has had a few different sites and venues over the years, but Vegas has been home for over 4 decades. In 2018, the show will move to San Antonio, TX for the first time and officials there are excited about the transition. The city had a display booth in the convention walkway advertising this wonderful city and all it has to offer.
Two of the largest events in North America, the San Antonio Livestock Show and Exhibition and Fiesta San Antonio, both make their homes in the city. The convention will be held at the magnificent Henry B. Gonalez Convention Center, located along the Riverwalk in San Antonio. The city-owned Convention Center hosts over 300 events each year with 750,000 visitors. The Convention Center footprint stretches to 1.6 million square also boasts the largest ballroom in Texas. The primary lobby features a large interactive $1 million art installation called "Liquid Crystal", which was designed by the Jason Bruges Studio in London.
The Convention Center is connected tot the Grand Hyatt hotel and there are several other major properties within easy walking distance. The Riverwalk, located along the San Antonio river, is a tree-lined hotbed of entertainment, restaurants and night life.
In a 2015 Carnivalwarehouse article, Jim Tucker, then-CEO of the IAFE, said the organization received only 1 bid for the convention to stay in Las vegas in 2018 and 2019 and the bed was 1.5 times higher than current costs. To add insult to injury, the new contract proposal contained an attrition clause that could make the IAFE liable for up to $250,000 if convention attendees did not book at the host hotel. Given the expenses and attitude of Vegas towards the convention, the IAFE elected to take its 4,000+ member event and make the move to San Antonio. The contract in San Antonio is for four years, 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021.
We detailed the SLA Hall of Honor winners in our last article and the IAFE also recognized some of its outstanding members. The State and Provincial Executive of the Year award went to Stephen Chambers of the Western Fair Association, the Young Professional's Initiative (YPI) Rising Star award to Miranda Muir of the Osceola County Fair; five Heritage awards were given to to Ron Oleheiser, Maxine Schwartz, Steve Storck, Bill Thompson, and Dr. Howard Worts; and the Hall of Fame award went to Cindy Hoye of the Indiana State Fair.
In other IAFE news, Becky Brashear, current Chairmen of the organization and Assiatent Manager, Maryland State Fair, passed the gavel to Rick Vymlatil of the South Florida Fair in West Palm Beach. Vymlatil, along with CEO Marla Calico, will lead the organization in 2018 and oversee the move of the convention from Las Vegas to San Antonio.
Speaking of long standing traditions, one trade show exhibitor was entering his 62nd year of touring. Leroy Van Dyke, country music artist and leader of the Country Gold Tour.
Van Dyke's hit single “Walk on By” was named by Billboard magazine in 1994 as the biggest country music single of all time. It topped the US country charts for 19 weeks after its release in 1961. It also reached #5 on the pop charts at the time. His other huge hit “The Auctioneer” has sold over 2.5 million copies. Van Dyke has recorded more than 500 songs in his career with dozens making the record charts.
The impetus for the Country Gold Tour came after Van Dyke had been touring for a while, playing many fairs and festivals. Inevitably the fairs would come and say “Leroy, we love you but we need you to change it up a bit in order to book you again”. Having listened to this for a number of years, Van Dyke decided to launch the Country Gold tour in 1990. The concept was to gather several million selling country music artists together and have them play their hits, all at one time. In a way, this is a forerunner of the festival style-set popular today where each band is only given a limited stage time and play only their best songs.
Leroy's wife Gladys said the tour is streamlined, offering only top selling artists from country's golden era, keeping costs down and interest high. “Each artist draws from his own fan base and together it makes a powerful team”, said Mrs. Van Dyke.
The tour has been a big hit at fair with venues like the Iowa State Fair booking the acts for decades, the Florida State Fair for about 15 years and the Midwest Threshers in Mount Pleasant Iowa for many years. The tour also plays Performing Arts Centers, Casinos and festivals as well as fairs each year.
Popular county music artists and veterans of the Country Gold tour, Hank Thompson and Johnny Russell have passed away and now artists such as TG Shepard and Gene Watson. In all, the tour has access to over 50 artists that can play on the tour at any time.
With this incredible roster of talent, Gladys Van Dyke proudly says that every song the public hears on the tour is a million seller and familiar to the audience.
With 62 years of touring under his belt, you may wonder what keeps Van Dyke going after all these years? Its his fans that keep it special he answers. After the shows, at the merchandise tables and in meet and greats, fans come up with tears in their eyes, he says. “I never thought I would get to meet you”, they say of Van Dyke or one of his star performers. For those fans, now in their senior years, who never got the chance to see these artists live when they were younger, the Country Gold Tour makes a strong connection with an earlier part of their life for a few hours at a fair or festival.
2017 SLA / IAFE Trade Show Coverage