Monday, January 19, 2015
Beating the winter blahs at MANTS
Coconut palm, MANTS show floor
[For my coverage of MANTS 2014, see "The Masterpiece of Trade Shows™"]
[Update: In response to my comment about an apparent lack of recycling bins, I received this comment from Kelly Finney, Event Manager for MANTS: "The Baltimore Convention Center has a single stream trash program, so they have a combination of containers for mixed use and also for separating. At the end of the show on Friday, I actually met a couple of the guys who sort the trash... talk about a thankless job. The convention center has compactor, baler, compost program, pallet recycling and the disposable utensils are primarily corn plastic. Here is more from their website about their green initiatives: Green Matters" Many thanks to Kelly for the additional information!]
"Overwhelming" was the word I found myself using more than once to describe MANTS, the Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show held last week in Baltimore, Maryland. Now in its 45th year, MANTS occupies the Baltimore Convention Center for 3 days every January. Drawing nearly 1,000 exhibitors and more than 10,000 attendees, and filling the entire convention center floor, this is one of the biggest trade shows of its kind, attended by a huge cross-section of the horticulture industry, and a major event on the horticultural calendar. I spent all day Thursday at MANTS and was only able to scratch the surface. By the end of the day I was exhausted, but in the best possible way. This was exactly what I needed in mid-winter: coming just when my gardening spirits are at their lowest, the event was like a euphoric and exhilarating drug that really helped pull me out of the winter blahs!
Quick and easy registration: no lines!
This was my third time at MANTS, and my second covering it as a garden blogger. After a remarkably quick and easy check-in (having already registered online, it took me literally less than a minute to get my badge) the day began with a breakfast reception for garden media including writers, bloggers, and communicators of all kinds. The Garden Writers Association (GWA) was instrumental in arranging this event in cooperation with MANTS organizers. We were given use of the "VIP Suite" for the day, and they did indeed make us feel like VIP's!
During the reception I chatted over coffee with fellow bloggers and garden writers, as well as several business owners. In many cases, we were meeting in person for the first time. It's all well and good to "meet" people on Facebook but there's no substitute for having an actual face-to-face conversation. It was a special pleasure to finally meet Brent and Becky Heath, of Brent and Becky's Bulbs, one of my favorite businesses.
Garden writers (l-r) Lisa Winters, Denise Schreiber, Marianne Wilburn, Kathy Jentz
As a new blogger I always feel a bit out of my league at events like this! Several board members were also in attendance and we were formally welcomed by MANTS president Mark Springer and Executive Vice President Vanessa Finney, who talked about the history and impact of the show, "the premier, private green industry marketplace for finding plants and nursery stock, landscape and garden items, heavy and light duty equipment, tools, furniture and hundreds of other allied industry products". Among these products was a great little multi-purpose folding hand tool that was included in a gift bag for us!
How have I lived without this?
New for this year, MANTS organizers also invited 3 new show exhibitors to talk to us about their businesses and products. Norman Cole talked about new boxwood cultivars coming out of Cole Nurseries, and generously brought several plants to give away. Washington, DC "culinary entertainer" Jonathan Bardzik talked about partnering with Overdevest Nurseries to market culinary herbs under the Footprints Plants label, and David Marciniak talked about Describe It, a paperless sales and proposal-building software package for the landscape industry.
Norman Cole (Cole Nurseries) discusses new boxwood cultivars
David Marciniak (l) and Ryan Yanchuleff (r), Describe It
Ed Overdevest (l) and Jonathan Bardzik (r), Footprints Edibles
Many, many thanks to GWA and MANTS for organizing this wonderful reception. I do have a couple of peeves (out of just a very few!). First was the poor lighting in the reception room, especially where the speakers were set up. Second, I hate, hate, hate Keurig coffee makers. These are just about the most wasteful way to make coffee ever invented, with each and every cup of coffee generating a little plastic "K-Cup" as waste. Moreover, I saw no recycling bins so everything, including aluminum cans and plastic water bottles, went into the trash. Not very "green" for a green industry trade show!
Keurig coffee machines (note racks of "K-Cups" at right)
Peeves aside, I found the event fun and informative, and the networking invigorating. Even after the reception officially ended I lingered a bit, catching up with a few more people. A common conversation theme was just how big, even overwhelming, an event this is. After the relative intimacy of the reception I found that I was almost dreading going out into the sensory overload of the show floor! But I eventually did, and I'll cover that in part 2, coming in a day or two!