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The Beginning of the End

Fittingly, the shows were the first to be held at the Anaheim Convention Center since the last IME West, Feb. 11-13, 2020. In the intervening 18 months, the only times the convention center was open it was to serve as a mass testing and vaccination site.

At a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the combined shows on August 10, executives from the event’s organizer, Informa Markets, were joined by the mayor of Anaheim, Harry Sidhu. A local high school band warmed up the socially distanced crowd of masked and maskless. Signs at the convention center recommended but did not require masks on the show floor, and the event asked that attendees had either been vaccinated or had a negative test through what one of the Informa executives called “self attestation.”

Nancy Walsh, president of Informa Markets North America, told the crowd, “We’re back; the power of face to face is back,” noting that the show typically has an economic impact of $64 million for the city. Mayor Sidhu said that the convention center alone, which had been closed for over a year, generates $30 million for the city. “There is no substitute for this,” Sidhu said. “People seeing a product up close and getting business done,” adding that the participants “do this knowing Covid is not behind us.”

It definitely is not. As of August 12, over the course of the pandemic, California has had 3,980,172 cases of Covid-19 and 64,037 deaths, with more than 45 million vaccines administered. On August 11, the California Dept. of Health reported 509 hospitalized Covid patients and 10,450 new cases, with a case rate of 23.7 per 100,000 people. Orange County, home to the convention center, has had a total of 272,212 total confirmed cases with slightly lower case rate of 19.6.  

Informa anticipated 1100 exhibitors, roughly half of what the show typically has. Before the event, the company forecast 13,000 attendees would turn out. As the Delta variant reminded everyone that Covid is indeed not behind us, the show suffered some last-second dropouts and vacated booths, with multiple exhibitors telling me that their company restricted how many employees they would send to California to staff their booths, making those calls in just the last week.

For many of the exhibitors that were there, the show marked the first live event they had attended since the last show in Anaheim, bringing things full circle. Just as you can’t pinpoint the moment the Coronavirus pandemic began in the U.S., the virus will not give us the closure of a definitive endpoint, but it’s clear that we’re at the beginning of the end, or further, hopefully, versus the end of the beginning.

Anaheim’s mayor and Informa executives cut the ribbon on the first Anaheim show in 18 months. 

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