A fixture of the turf management sector calendar, and after a year's hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, GMA Saltex show is back - and will be held at the Birmingham NEC 3-4 November.
Saltex operations manager Derek "Mr Saltex" Walder and Grounds Management Association CEO Geoff Webb join Horticulture Week technical editor Sally Drury to discuss Saltex past and future.
Held almost every year since 1938, the show has survived storms, floods and numerous changes of venue (The Hurlingham Club, Motspur Park, Windsor Racecourse and the East of England Showground, Peterborough) before settling finally as an indoor show at the Birmingham NEC.
The move from outside at Windsor to inside at the more central and accessible Birmingham "took the risk of weather away" and has proved a success. Since the move, visitor numbers have gone up from around 6,500 to more than 9,000 with upwards of 400 brands represented.
Walder, who has been involved with Saltex for a "frightening" 39 years, takes us behind the scenes of the exhibition, sharing with fellow show 'veteran' Sally, various anecdotes and recollections, revealing that he even gets to choose the colour of the carpet!
Webb talks about some of the excesses of the 'old days' at Saltex, reveals how during one off-road driving course, a John Deere Gator suffered a broken axle and how he DJ-ed at one of the show's 'after parties' - "which still gets ridiculed...to this day".
A show based around heavy machinery has to take health and safety seriously and, as Derek says, "the health and safety officer spends his life chasing people" to ensure all risk assessments and other paperwork is completed. Geoff and Derek outline the steps the show will be taking to ensure it can provide a safe environment during the still-evolving Covid-19 situation: "From the operations side, have got every tool in our toolbox to deal with whatever comes up."
Derek and Sally reminisce about some of the welcome improvements technology they have witnessed with Derek recalling:
"When I first started as a groundsman I used to mark my pitches out with a wheel-to-wheel marker and we used to mix hydrated lime with water...now we've got satelite-controlled robotic markers".
Finally Sally asks how the GMA is addressing the urgent need to attract younger people to the industry and what is there for them at the show and also the importance of the show to the GMA as an organisation.
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