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Earlier date, Bush visit to boost farm show attendance


The Farm Progress Show is expected to draw an unprecedented crowd of 250,000 people and have a major economic impact on the surrounding area when the three-day event returns to rural Alleman Tuesday.

As the nation’s largest outdoor farm show serving America’s families, the Farm Progress Show, sponsored by Farm Progress publications, will have a substantial effect on hotel and retail traffic in nearby Ankeny that will have repercussions for a much wider area, including Ames and all across Greater Des Moines, said Keith Ryan, the show’s director.

“Right now, West Des Moines would be about the closest place that would have hotel vacancies,” Ryan said. “There are approximately 400 exhibitors, and an exhibitor tends to bring about six to eight workers with them; some bring as many as 60-80 people to help. There’s a lot of revenue generated just from exhibitors alone.”

Julie Cooper, the executive director of the Ankeny Area Chamber of Commerce, said all of the city’s nine hotels belonging to the chamber are fully booked during the duration of the event, and some have been booked for the past year.

“I have spoken with restaurants in town and heard that they are gearing up for the dates and expect to be busier,” Cooper said. “The business community was very much affected by the last Farm Progress Show in 2002, and I do expect the economic impact to be even greater this time based on the considerable amount of new restaurants and retail stores that have opened here since then.”

Everyone from 14-year-old FFA members to retired farmers will come to take in agribusiness exhibits and field demonstrations, Ryan said. Surveys of visitors to Farm Progress Shows found that the average age of attendees was 52, and about 75 percent of them lived within a 150-mile radius. But this year could be a different story, he said. The date of the show has been moved up almost a month earlier than in previous years to make it more convenient for working farmers.

“In past years, people have had to shut down the combine to come,” Ryan said. “By having the show before everyone’s out working in the field, we’re hearing feedback, almost on a weekly basis, that people who haven’t been able to come for the past 15 years will be able to come this year. Ones who have come in the past are telling us that they are planning to spend some extra time here. Both are a great indication of growth.”

The show’s turnout is also expected to be affected by last week’s announcement that President George W. Bush will visit the Farm Progress Show on its opening day as part of his eight-state tour through America’s heartland.

“We certainly are very excited,” Ryan said. “We welcomed the opportunity when they approached us about it, and I think it will be e wonderful thing for the Farm Progress Show and the people in the community.”

Ryan said he does not have specifics about what Bush will speak about during his midday stop, but expects that he will give some attention to agricultural issues. “If he is going to speak about agriculture, there is probably no better place in the country to address that topic than at this Farm Progress Show,” he said.

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