DECATUR – The expansion of Progress City USA is being considered as Farm Progress Show organizers work to accommodate increased demand from exhibitors.
Exhibit space inside the fenced area of the 80-acre site is already at capacity ahead of the pace from previous years, show manager Matt Jungmann said Tuesday during the Macon County Farm Bureau Ag Day breakfast.
“We will have to look seriously at permanently expanding the show,” Jungmann said. “The big players aren't going anywhere.”
The event has gone from 525 exhibitors in 2005 when it was first held in Decatur to more than 600 in 2013 when a temporary annex needed to be added outside the fenced area, Jungmann said. He said about 680 applications have been received for this year's show, which is scheduled for Sept. 1 to 3.
“We're already outpacing it,” Jungmann said. “It speaks well to the facility and support the community has put around it.”
Organizers thought the site would have more than enough space when it was first built to accommodate exhibitors and all the visitors, Jungmann said. Attendance over the three days of the event averages 160,000 visitors per year, he said.
Over the years, Jungmann said exhibitors have been asking for more space in part to fit farming equipment, which has been increasing in size. The goal is for all exhibitors to feel as fully part of the show as possible with access to utilities and by having the exhibit field blend together, he said.
Jungmann is confident in the ability to complete an expansion, especially given the amount of time available compared to previous years such as 2005 when the entire site was built.
“We need to figure out what the next steps are to keep the momentum going,” Jungmann said. “We look forward to a big show.”
Decatur is a fitting place to hold the Farm Progress Show, considering what local farmers can accomplish, said Tim Stock, Macon County Farm Bureau manager. Macon County was first throughout the state in 2014 with corn yields of 236 bushels per acre and second in soybean yields at 67.4 bushels per acre.
“It's a great opportunity for Macon County agriculture to showcase itself to the people coming in,” Stock said. “The population continues to grow. We've got to provide those types of yields on a consistent basis to feed the world.”
Stock said growers, including the ones who host the Farm Progress field demonstration areas, are at the mercy of Mother Nature.
“That's the way it is every year,” Stock said. “We hope Mother Nature cooperates to show off our crops.”
Jungmann is mindful of having demonstration fields planted in a timely fashion, considering the crops need to be ready for a fixed three-day window late in the summer. No matter what the host farmers can do, Jungmann said that isn't always possible as was the case two years ago when field demonstrations were scratched a week before the show.
“It's hard to get corn ready,” Jungmann said, noting the summer of 2013 was too cool for growing the crop fast enough. “We've got to have the heat through the summer.”
Given the increased interest in the event from visitors and exhibitors, Jungmann realizes the importance of being able to run the field demonstrations. Still, he said the benefit of holding the show early in the potential harvest season outweighs the risk.
“It's very much been worthwhile,” Jungmann said about moving the event from the end of September like it was prior to 2005. “Farmers can come from farther away. When the show was at the end of September, they just couldn't do it.”
Jungmann said plans are in the works to have a concert on the second evening of the event with the performer to be announced.