KENNEWICK, Wash. — The Washington-Oregon Potato Conference trade show continues to grow each year, organizers say.
When the conference expanded into the Toyota Center next door, organizers were able to accommodate a waiting list of exhibitors that had grown to 50, said Dale Lathim, chairman of the conference trade show. But now the list is growing again, he said.
The conference is Jan. 23-25 at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick, Wash.
The conference even got rid of some larger spaces for big equipment to fit more booths.
“We’re accommodating more vendors who are clamoring to be in the show, and we’re trying to include as many of them as possible,” Lathim said. “Our limiting factor is space. If for some reason we were able to have more space, we could put at least the 50 on the waiting list, and there’s others I’m sure that would want to get in that just don’t even bother because they know how far they’d be down on the waiting list.”
The conference prioritizes the waiting list based on direct involvement in the potato industry, and gives extra points to anything new and innovative, Lathim said. Several companies will feature drones and drone technology this year.
“If you’ve got something that’s not being exhibited already, especially this new technology, you’re going to move probably right to the top of the list,” he said.
The organizers try to accommodate as many exhibitors as possible, Lathim said.
The conference has 177 exhibitors this year.
Lathim said the conference hopes to draw 2,000 people, about the same number as last year. Attendees come from the Northwest, elsewhere in the U.S. and Canada, and from nations such as Brazil and China.
“In my opinion, our show is one of, if not the best, source of information from a potato standpoint that you’ll find in any other conference in the world,” Lathim said. “Because the Columbia Basin is the premier potato-growing region in the world, they’re coming to see what we’re doing that maybe they can take back and improve their operations in their area.”
The general session focuses on growers, he said, while other seminars may look at different aspects of the industry.
Photographer Paul Mobley delivers the keynote speech at 11 a.m. Jan. 24, titled “American Farmer: Heart of Our Country.”
“We think that every year it gets better,” Lathim said of the conference. “This year should be no different: This one should be the best ever.”