Couple have shows drawing big crowds

12_bigcrowds_01Ann and Joseph Strong, owners of The Woodworking Shows, have worked diligently to keep their trade shows going through a tough economy and their efforts are paying off. Not only have they continued offering a healthy listing of shows in major cities across the country since they took ownership in 2007, but they say recruiting exhibitors has gotten easier and attendance is up.

"It's no secret the economy tanked in the last couple of years," says Ann Strong. "I think there are two reasons why we're seeing attendance up at the shows. For one thing, people are fatigued by the recession. They want to go out and experience what's out there. They're moving forward with a sense of normalcy. The other big reason people are talking about The Woodworking Shows is because there is value in attending them; it's not just a hit-or-miss event."

The Woodworking Shows are essentially small, local trade shows featuring products for woodworkers. Admission is $10 per day. The shows are held at various cities throughout the nation from the fall to springtime.

The most popular shows - held in Baltimore; Springfield, Mass.; Indianapolis; Kansas City, Kan.; Columbus, Ohio; St. Louis; Milwaukee; Somerset, N.J.; Atlanta, and Chantilly, Va. - run from January through March. A full schedule is available at www.thewoodworkingshows.com.

Exhibitors have been loyal, with about a 70 percent return rate, according to Ann Strong.

The Strongs are a familiar sight at the shows. They've made a habit of greeting attendees as they walk into the venues, asking trivia questions and handing out T-shirts.

The Strongs have also expanded the shows' educational opportunities. "The Woodworking Shows have always had educational programs, but there was an extra charge in the past. We've integrated the programs onto the show floor so they're accessible and available to every person that walks through the door," says Ann Strong.

This year, patrons can look forward to clinics and seminars on using band saws, selecting router bits, finishing techniques, turning applications and more.

"The best part of the shows happens on Friday mornings when you have the crowd out front, we're doing trivia and tossing T-shirts and everyone's excited about what they're about to see," says Joseph Strong.

"It's like Christmas for some of these woodworkers. Once a year it comes around and they get so excited about seeing all the new tools, attending the educational programs and seeing people they know."

This article originally appeared in the February 2011 issue.