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Crowds create bustling atmosphere at AWFS

Attendance and business activity was decidedly up at the 2015 AWFS fair, which was held July 22-25 in Las Vegas.

AWFS was bigger and better in 2015.

“We definitely had an increase in attendance of 16 percent compared to our 2013 show. We are looking at about 10,565 attendees, (compared to) 9,150,” AWFS fair executive vice president Angelo Gangone says.

This year’s fair also had 593 exhibitors, which was 90 more than in 2013.

“A big thing was the number of companies we had and there were quite a few first-time companies, which was great. Altogether these companies represented 67 nations,” Gangone says.

“I believe the show was a good opportunity for new companies such as ours to explore new products and technologies,” says Eric Thornton of Central Millwork in Farmers Branch, Texas.

First-time attendees interviewed by Woodshop News came away impressed.

“To me, it seemed big,” says Charles Wilkes of Boulder Mills Inc. in Lafayette, Colo. “A wide variety of companies were showing their products. I found several new products that I would not have known about without going to the show. We were there to evaluate software for our shop’s needs and found the one we thought was going to be the right choice was clearly not. Instead we found a company we had never heard of with the product that was the right fit for our needs.”

Oneida Air Systems product manager Daniel Knapp noted his booth had a constant stream of visitors. “Overall, AWFS was a huge success for us and brought us a great opportunity for reaching customers in a setting where they can see our products. We know that seeing is believing in our industry and this show allowed us to do this at our best. Overall with the number of visitors, great location and ability to demonstrate products, AWFS enabled us to reach many of our customers in the woodworking market.”

Other exhibitors said they didn’t notice a huge jump in attendance, but described visitors as ready to buy.

With nearly 600 exhibitors, attendees had plenty to see.

“The [producers] said registration was up 30 percent but we did not see the foot traffic,” says Chuck Hicks of Southeast Tool. “We did however have very qualified people that came by the booth which was very nice. I do feel that it is time to move this show back to Anaheim, Calif. There are too many distractions in Vegas that continue to take people away from the show.”

Gangone says the fair’s educational events were a hit and exhibiting trade groups reported strong business activity.

The Furniture Society, for example, was pleased with the amount of visitors to its booth. “We had work on display by artists Alf Sharp, Jennifer Anderson and Reuben Foat. Each of those pieces had a digital fabrication component to it, and we did this because much of the AWFS show has a focus on CNC machinery. We were eager to show the high level of craftsmanship that our members are capable of, and that some of the best digi-fabbed work still requires some hand work,” says Steffi Dotson, president of the society’s board of trustees.

Gangone adds that plans are already underway for the 2017 show. New features could possibly include more products from other markets.

“As we worked on the 2015 shows we got ideas that were too late to implement, but we will put them on the docket for the next show. We are very confident we will have another good year in 2017.”

This article originally appeared in the September 2015 issue.

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