MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA, US — The Grain Elevator and Processing Society’s first live event in two years — the 2021 GEAPS Exchange in Columbus, Ohio, US — drew 1,406 attendees earlier this month, roughly half of what the event typically draws. By comparison, the 2019 GEAPS Exchange in New Orleans, Louisiana, US, drew more than 2,800 delegates.

The organization, which released the official attendance figure on Aug. 19, was forced to cancel GEAPS Exchange in March 2020 when the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic led governments around the world to order their citizens to shelter in place to limit the spread of the virus.

Although the pandemic is still causing hundreds of thousands of new cases and tens of thousands of deaths around the world each day, the availability of COVID-19 vaccines has allowed much of the world to return to some sense of normalcy.

“As everyone has experienced over the last two years, the pandemic has really changed how we operate,” said Steve Records, executive director of GEAPS. “The grain industry is people and relationship driven. It was great to once again provide a forum for people to get to meet, get to know each other, connect, share stories and build relationships that will last decades.”

Like many other trade associations, GEAPS adapted in recent months by moving its board of directors’ meetings and other offerings online.

“We’ve learned to change and adapt and use technology, but it doesn’t replace shaking hands, clinking glasses and looking somebody in the eye,” said GEAPS International President Barb Grove, CGOM, Central Valley Ag. “That’s a very important part of our networking. I’m very excited we were able to gather in-person again.”

More than 300 exhibitors displayed their equipment and services at the GEAPS Exchange trade show.

“I never thought I’d say that I’m excited for trade shows, but it was kind of a pent-up demand of seeing your friends in the industry that you haven’t seen,” said Jason Grahek of Knobelsdorff. “It was special to get back to.”

The annual technical conference and exposition is a forum to see the newest technology and equipment in the grain industry and learn about the latest trends and best practices.

The 2022 GEAPS Exchange is scheduled for March 26-29 at the Kansas City Convention Center in Kansas City, Missouri, US. Booth sales and registration for the event opens in the fall. For updates on the conference visit the Exchange website (geapsexchange.com).

For 2021, a smaller show was expected given the change in date, ongoing COVID-19 restrictions and the surge in the Delta variant.

“We were able to adjust and plan accordingly, but we also expect maybe our biggest show ever come March in Kansas City,” Records said.

With its central Midwestern US location, many people will be able to drive into Kansas City for a day or two, he said, and the return to a late winter/early spring date also will help attendance.

“That seems to be the timeframe, prior to the spring planting and no one is harvesting anything,” Records said. “It’s really our sweet spot.”