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Exchange June 2011

AWFS fair bets on a better turnout

The AWFS fair, scheduled for July 20-23 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, has a wealth of offerings for woodworkers, including new technology and machinery debuts, seminars on business solutions, networking opportunities, educational programs and more.

In an interview with Woodshop News, Marguerite Hoffman, the AWFS vice president of tradeshows, gave an overview of the show’s planning progress.

“Everything’s going very well. After last summer, we were a little nervous as to what was going to happen and, thankfully, the economy is starting to cooperate. Not only have we seen that, but both our machinery and supplier exhibitors have seen that,” she says.

Hoffman says that about 600 exhibitors are expected at this year’s fair, an increase from 2009, due to the return of the large machinery manufacturers such as Biesse America, Stiles Machinery and Weinig. Many of the exhibitors who downsized their booths at the last fair are returning and asking for more space.

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“The good news is that the people who downsized were so thankful that they stayed in the show. Where else are you going to get 9,000-plus customers just knocking on your door, walking in your booth? It was an expense for the companies, but obviously it paid off for them because they’re returning this year and it gives them that opportunity again,” says Hoffman.

In early March, Hoffman estimated preshow attendance at about 12,000. Final attendance is projected at about 19,000.

The fair, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2009, will mark the 100th anniversary of the AWFS in 2011.

“The AWFS puts so much back into the woodworking industry that people don’t know about,” says Hoffman. “We do a lot of lobbying for a lot of the rules and regulations in the legislature right now, fighting against things that are going to hurt the industry, promoting the things that are going to help the industry with our advocates.”

Show programs have grown significantly through the years. This year’s fair will feature an expanded educational program, the College of Woodworking Knowledge, with eight tracks and 46 sessions.

“These sessions are being taught by the best in the industry. Nancy Fister, our educational director, goes after good ideas and improves the program every year. Over 25 percent of the attendees attend a seminar while they’re at the fair,” says Hoffman.

Representatives of WoodLINKS will be on hand to help high school shop instructors improve their programs. A portion of the new skill standards created by the Woodwork Career Alliance will be available on the show floor. The AWFS is also partnering with SkillsUSA to present a cabinetmaking competition.

The fair will also feature the Fresh Wood student design competition, Sequoia Awards for new product innovation, a working cabinet shop exhibit (smartSHOP) and belt sander races.

For registration and show information, visit

— Jennifer Hicks

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