Invariably, folks at the Mid-South Farm and Gin Show will ask how many years I’ve been attending the show. I never have an answer I feel is accurate. I don’t really remember year I first went, so I usually just laughingly say, “A long time.”
I do remember it was during the years that the late Bob Collins was heading the Southern Cotton Ginners Association, and it was at the Memphis Convention Center, which opened in 1974 … and that’s a lot of years ago. Lee Todd succeeded Bob and ran the association and show for many years until he retired (and grew a beard worthy of Sasquatch). I first met his successor, Tim Price, at the 2003 Beltwide Cotton Conferences in Nashville, and worked with him on his first show in 2004, and all those since.
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There were a few years in the ‘70s that, for one reason or another, I was unable to attend, and I missed the show eight years ago due to a broken wrist from a fall on ice a few days prior. But collectively, I’d guess I’ve been there for at least 30 shows.
The show’s always a good time, despite the long hours and the toll walking and standing on those convention center concrete floors takes on feet and legs. At the end of a day, when the younger folks are eagerly heading out to eat or party on Beale Street, all I want to do is soak my aching bod in a hot tub.
There are folks I see year to year, most of them only at the show. Some, babies or toddlers when I first encountered them with their parents, are now teenagers or grownups with children of their own. Invariably — my wife having taught half the kids in the western hemisphere over her working career — I’ll cross paths with some of her former students, themselves now middle-aged and/or grandparents.
It’s always rewarding, and flattering, when folks I haven’t met stop me and tell me they read my weekly column (even those who’ve taken me to task via e-mail or phone).
As has been the case with agriculture at large, the show has been constantly evolving, from the late ‘70s/early ‘80s era of who-can-build-the-biggest-most-powerful tractor and many dozens of chemical companies to today’s technology-laden machinery (including, this year, a distributor of unmanned aircraft) and just a handful of major ag chemical companies, offering products that are target-specific and environmentally benign.
Originally primarily a cotton-oriented show, and still more familiarly known to every as “The Gin Show,” it now encompasses all Mid-South crops, giving producers an up close and personal look at what’s new as they head into another season.
Thanks to all who helped make this year’s show a success!