Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Family reunion

Here's Nicole and Amy at the welcome desk in the press room. Who are Nicole and Amy? They are part of the history of this truck show and part of the family that puts on this show.

Mark Reddig was asking me for a quick history of this truck show, as I have been coming here since other LL staffers were in junior high. OK, here it is.

The first MATS show was held in 1972, and I understand there were 80 exhibitors and about 4,000 truckers in attendance. It was the brainchild of Paul K. Young and the private management group, Exhibit Management Associates or EMA, and is still totally a family affair.

For 37 years, this Louisville business has steered the event.

Now pay attention. Paul's son Tim Young became president of EMA when Paul died of cancer 10 or 11 years ago. Tim is still a major resource, and word is this may be his last year working the show. Tim's son Toby is now president at age 32, and I think this is his third year at the top of EMA. I remember Toby as a teenager working the doors, doing a bit of everything.

Four families own the show. The Youngs, of course, and the Ushers are involved in a major way. Bill Usher’s daughter-in-law, Amy, is Director of Media Relations, and we deal with her for our press gang's credentials. Toby’s wife, Nicole, is a pediatric nurse but during the show she takes off and helps in the press room. Oh yeah, Amy is also Director of Housing.

My first show was about 1990. I remember at that point it was packed to the gills. They called in the architects. By 1991, the south wing phase 1 added more room. By 1994, the south wing phase 2 added even more room. By then, MATs had more than 600 exhibitors and 35,000 attendees.

Here’s why it’s the king of the truck shows.

By the end of the '90s, there was more than a million square feet of space. But it did not end there. In 2006, the South Wing phase 3 was done. 1.2 million square feet of space could then accommodate nearly 1,200 exhibitors, and the show was drawing about 80,000 attendees.

It now draws attendees from every state and 43 countries.

OOIDA has been here every year and began exhibiting many years ago with just a table (yeah, we had a tablecloth). It was a membership venture and two reporters covered it. One was me. When our marketing dude Mike Schermoly came on board, he decided we had to have a real booth. Now we have two booths inside, and the Spirit Truck is outside the front doors.

For us, it's one giant family reunion.

1 comment:

  1. It's SO COOL to hear from a REAL MATS vet!

    How many industries are this successful in pulling off this much goodwill for 37 years?! And to think - when it is over, these people and this equipment goes back on the road, hauling all of the things that make our nation, and keep it going.

    It's great to hear from OOIDA and to know that real trucking is solidly on the ground at MATS!

    Danny Schnautz
    out of Pasadena, TX (c'mon back)