This Just In

Family of Trade Show Professionals Connects Each Year at Equip Exposition

Maddy Ryley, Managing Editor
Family of Trade Show Professionals Connects Each Year at Equip Exposition

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Each year, the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute’s Equip Exposition brings together thousands of attendees and exhibitors from the international landscaping, outdoor living and equipment industries — and a certain family of trade show professionals. Mike, Evan and Ian Cox all work in different roles on Equip Exposition, and each October they’re brought together in Louisville to produce the Gold 100 and Grand Award-winning show.

The family’s involvement in the trade show industry began with Mike, who joined Fern in 1980 and started by printing booth identification signs and installing and dismantling shows. Mike, the father of identical twins Evan and Ian, is now Executive Vice President at Fern, where his responsibilities include sales and labor relations. Currently serving in a less hands-on capacity than earlier in his career, Mike is able to watch his sons on the front lines of the show.

“It’s a father’s dream to have children working in your industry and have them perform at a high level,” Mike said. “It is extra special that the circumstances here include a show that has a 40-year history that I can share with my sons. I am very proud. From time to time, Ian and Evan will ask me for my opinion or advice, and when they do, they are always respectful and attentive. They often have to hear me go on about something that they did not ask about, before getting an answer to their questions. It is fun to see my sons doing a lot of what I did in my earlier years in the industry, on a show where I was previously deeply involved in production for many years.”

Evan, Director of Digital Marketing at Equip Exposition, and Ian, Executive Director of Communications for Kentucky Venues, grew up hearing stories about the trade show world.

“I’ve been immersed in the trade show industry for as long as I can remember,” Ian said. “I have fond memories of my childhood attending trade shows at the Kentucky Exposition Center because my father worked for George E. Fern. From time to time, he’d take us to the exhibit hall and have us hang pipe and drape, strike small exhibits and interact with his coworkers. Our dinner conversations were often about trade show experiences, including vivid brainstorming of new ideas and concepts being discussed on and off the show floor.”

Related. Equip Exposition Shatters Attendance Records, Sells Out Expo

An Inherited Passion

Mike’s love of the trade show industry flowed down to his sons, who are passionate about their work, their colleagues and the people and industries they serve.

“My dad’s career path convinces me that for those that work hard in this business there will be a way to provide for my family and hopefully make some great life-long friends, including the stories that others will pass down for generations,” Evan said. “When you work a late night or a hard day with co-workers by your side, you become a family. With only a couple dozen workers aimed at the same goals, you successfully serve thousands of people. There are only a few things that beat the feeling an hour after you close your trade show – and it’s just thrilling enough to make you commit to another year.”

Ian similarly finds great personal joy in his work. “My work makes me emotional,” he said. “It offers a space for growth and a space to take calculated risks. I have daily experiences that challenge me in new ways and often bring indescribable joy to my life. Some projects we work on take many months or years to complete. Those projects positively impact our customers and the community, so there’s a lot of sweat equity in the tasks. Seeing the end-products launch makes me feel a way that I’ve only found within the events industry.”

Together on the Show Floor

Though on different paths, the three men all found themselves working on Equip Exposition, doing work that impacts the others’ and getting to interact in a professional capacity.

“My favorite thing is seeing my dad and brother at the show,” Evan said. “It fills me with immense respect and pride for the work they do. In a personal way, the work they do to make our shared event launch smoothly and promote it makes me so grateful. I don’t have the pleasure of working with my dad or brother directly, but we often serve as ‘shortcuts’ for getting to the right people when needed.”

Getting to work together allows the three to see each other’s hard work and success in a different light.

“I am always in awe of Evan’s unwavering positivity and my dad’s work ethic,” Ian said. “When you go from witnessing it on the sidelines to experiencing it as a peer, it’s just a wholesome feeling. It makes you proud of the family name. We have a lot of people who have sacrificed to get us where we are, and we don’t take that for granted.”

It also means getting to hear the impact your family has made from others close to the show’s production.

“Some of my favorite memories are hearing stories from my coworkers and from others about my dad,” Evan said. “Most often people share with me how reliable and trustworthy he has been. As his son, I already looked up to him, but sometimes it was in a way that maybe I could never be as great as him. In my short few years, I am starting to see that staying somewhere for a long time allows you to earn a reputation based on your effort. My dad is evidence that your commitment to others over time can create a lot of goodwill. I hope to attain a fraction of what he’s done in this industry.”

Family Matters

All three are invested in the trade show industry and the people they serve, and getting to produce an iconic event as a team makes it that much more of a special experience.

“It is the highlight of the year for me when we are focused on the same event, especially a show as prestigious as Equip Exposition,” Mike said. “I am very proud, getting to be here with them for another show and sharing their success with them on opening day.”

Getting to work together on Equip Exposition also allows them to come together in a way only a family can.

“As a child, you often celebrate the little and big wins together with family — as one,” Ian said. “As you grow older, many of those wins become more on a professional basis, which are celebrated within the office or with your spouse. We sometimes lose those family celebrations because of a lack of understanding or time. When my brother, dad and I work together on Equip Expo, at the end of the show each year, we celebrate our accomplishments together just as we did growing up.”

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