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FOCUS – V-Twin Expo, The Place for Cruisers and Customs

January 20, 2005
Filed under Features

Jim Betlach is a busy guy these days. His phone is ringing off the hook, and he’s buried in vendor lists and messages from show exhibitors and those who wish they were. But it wasn’t always that way.
Betlach is executive producer of the V-Twin Expo, the largest U.S. trade show devoted to V-twin cruisers and custom bikes.
When the show opens Jan. 29 at the Cincinnati Convention Center, he’ll have more than 375 exhibitors set up in about 850 booths; close to 10,000 attendees are expected to walk the three-day show.
By comparison, the industry standard Dealer Expo held in Indianapolis in February reported that more than 19,000 attendees visited 922 exhibitors in some 320,000 square feet of space.
Betlach, a long-time motorcycle guy who’s resume includes a lengthy stint as a rep for Drag Specialties, thought the industry needed its very own venue dedicated to American V-twins, basically the Harley-Davidson market. There were other shows, but none that catered to this market. His idea was to clear away non-motorcycle products and let motorcycle dealers take dead aim at vendors who specialized in American V-twin products.

WHAT’S NEW AT THE EXPO?
What can you expect when you visit the Expo this year? Major changes from last year, certainly. Teresa Bacal, who manages the show, notes that the convention center is being expanded and construction has caused changes in the show layout.
The city of Cincinnati is investing $160 million to renovate and reconfigure the convention center. When work is completed in mid-2006, the center will offer nearly 200,000 square feet of exhibition space and more than 100,000 square feet of meeting space. The new configuration will include a 40,000-square-foot ballroom and a smaller, 17,400-square-foot ballroom. Work on the expansion began earlier this year.
The show is on two floors this year for the first time, says Bacal, because of the construction project. “We lost some space downstairs (on the main exhibition floor) so we went upstairs and used the ballroom. That forced us to move the Awards reception to the Hyatt Hotel, but it’s right through the skyway.”
Bacal says there will be plenty of traffic on the third floor because there’s a new, much larger restaurant there. Additional third floor traffic will come from the registration desk that has been relocated from the first floor. Those who have not pre-registered must sign up at the third floor registration area. “This will relieve congestion (on the first floor) and drive traffic to the third floor,” says Bacal. “I don’t think there will be any problem with lower traffic up there.”
The Expo management team is going to have to juggle space for the next couple of years, as well, until the expansion project is completed.
Even with the new configuration, there will be nearly 200,000 square feet of exhibit space for the show this year. That’s up substantially from the 162,000 square feet of space used in the last show.
Aside from reconfiguring the show floor, the biggest challenge facing Betlach and Bacal is finding space for everyone who wants to exhibit, they say. “We have many exhibitors who want to expand and new ones, too,” says Bacal. “There’s a challenge to balance that out.
“We want (to help) current exhibitors who have supported us and want to expand, but not at the expense of new ones. The exhibitors have been understanding. They know that more exhibitors bring more attendance.”
Bacal said that the Expo had a waiting list of more than 30 companies in late November. ‘We’ve really been sold out since October,” she said.
Attendance is up as well this year. “We’re pretty close to being sold out of all hotels. We’re six weeks ahead of the curve from last year,” she says. “(Last year) We didn’t get sold out until a couple of weeks before the show.”
In addition to a new look to the show floor and a tighter hotel room market, there are changes in the registration process to make things easier for the attendees.
This year, there will be badge pick up booths at each of the downtown show hotels. “We started that last year,” says Bacal, “but it didn’t get a lot of use. We hope it will relieve congestion on the main floor (of the convention center).” Registered attendees will receive a badge in the mail, but have to pick up a badge holder before entering the Expo. They also can pick up materials on Friday, the day before the show floor opens.
Also new this year is a drawing for a custom chopper for anyone who is preregistered.
The popular seminar schedule also has been expanded for the 2005 show. A complete seminar schedule is presented elsewhere on this page.
The main show floor, of course, is where the real action will be for three days. Leading bike builders scheduled to attend range from established companies such as American IronHorse and Big Dog to new custom builders such as Rucker Performance, the new company launched this year by Bill Rucker, co-founder of American IronHorse.

For additional show information contact:
Reaction Management, Inc.
3655 West Anthem Way
Suite A-109  PMB 420
Anthem, Ariz.,  85086
623-551-1847, Fax: 623-551-1867

For additional information on registration and hotel rooms, contact:
Cornerstone Registration, Ltd.
PO Box 1715
Maple Grove, Minn.,  55311-6715
Toll Free:  866-427-7583  (in USA only)
763-420-7829, Fax: 763-420-7849
Email : registration@cornerstonereg.com

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