Two sure-fire ways to get attention: puppies and babies. I've often thought someone would have a real winner if they held a combination baby-puppy show.

It's interesting each year at the Mid-South Farm & Gin Show to see babies and toddlers wheeled about the giant showrooms in strollers and little red wagons, or sometimes just draped over Dad's shoulder, sound asleep. They get a lot of attention, and there's always a lot of kitchy-cooing with babies.

Like a magnet, too, are the puppies that are on display. They attract kids galore, who seem not to mind the least bit all the licking and slobbering and pawing by the young dogs (grownups, too, are not immune as they grin, pet the puppies, and talk baby-talk to them). One of the show's biggest crowds this year was for the afternoon drawings to give away a puppy. (Check the happy expressions of the winners in the photos elsewhere in this issue.)

Babies and puppies aside, there was a lot of crowd interest in everything at this year's show, from giant $350,000 cotton pickers to agrichemicals to a host of ag-related products and services and new technologies. The largest crowd ever trooped through the convention center showrooms, checking out more than 400 exhibits.

“You can sure tell the difference this year,” one exhibitor said during a short break from pitching his product. “Farmers had a good year in 2003, and there's a lot of optimism going into the new crop season. We've booked some good business here at the show.”

The drawing power and strong interest in the show was certainly demonstrated Saturday, which turned out to be a stunningly beautiful spring day, following a lot of rain and gloom, and even though there were any number of excuses to be elsewhere, the show was packed.

“I think it's indicative of how much the show has become a must-attend event,” says Tim Price, executive vice president of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association, and show manger. “People plan for it year-to-year and they come regardless of the weather.”

It was the first show for Price since he took over the SCGA post following the retirement of Lee Todd last year. “It has been a learning process for me,” he says, “and it has been a great experience, talking with all the exhibitors about their particular businesses and the opportunities they see in this rapidly-changing sector.”

The success of the show for the past half-century-plus, Price says, is due in large part to its continually adapting to reflect those changes through its myriad of exhibits, offering Mid-South producers an opportunity to get a firsthand look at what's current in products and services — all in one place, and without having to travel great distances.

Plus, it retains the down-home, one-big-family feel (including babies and puppies) that makes it a good place to spend a weekend and shake off the winter doldrums.

We at Delta Farm Press are proud to be the co-sponsor of the show, and to be a part of this dynamic, ever-changing industry.


e-mail: hbrandon@primediabusiness.com