Tradeshow 1998Lionel staffs the booth with contributor Brian Swystun at Agribition in 1998 in our first round of marketing the magazine.
Hmmm… we have 10,000 copies of our prototype magazines to distribute so people could see our vision for "the best presentation of Saskatchewan." OK, let's plan a tradeshow marathon and… Lionel! You'll be our representative to work the booth. Sure, you can do it. What's so hard about 12-hour days of non-stop talking and repeating oneself? It's only for 18 days!
My chivalrous (but introverted) husband agreed to do it, bless him. I, the extroverted one, couldn't—my newborn needed me. We only had one vehicle, so my job would be to shuttle him between shows.
We thought we'd work out the bugs in our tradeshow routine close to home at the Harvest Showdown in Yorkton for 4 days. We were set up in the curling rink. Have you ever done a tradeshow on ice? It doesn't take long before the legs freeze and there's no feeling from about the knees down. Though panels were laid over the ice, they were filthy from being used for years at the indoor rodeo. I was frantic trying to keep my toddler son from rolling around and getting covered in dirt. "Stay away from Daddy in his suit!" (I'm happy to note that the Yorkton show is now in a newly renovated Gallagher Centre and it is dreamy.) All the same, people were intrigued by our idea, and we had some great interest in our magazine.
The next show was Mexibition in Saskatoon. Our display looked beautiful and we had a signed, framed photo from Larry Easton to raffle off. Stacks of our prototype magazine were waiting to impress a new audience. For good measure, Lionel was warned to stay away from the fudge booth.
On day two of Mexibition I received a call with an almost indiscernible voice on the other end. It was Lionel and he couldn't talk! His voice had given up! "Can you still sell subscriptions?" I ask. Oh yes—he thought he could get through with a few grunts and some hand gestures and many litres of liquids to soothe his throat. The Saskatoon crowd was incredibly gracious and we actually sold quite a few subscriptions at that show. But since no one else could fill Lionel's shoes, on he went to Agribition in Regina for nine more days...
Of course, it hadn't dawned on us that it might be difficult finding a room for him during Agribition. The best we could do was a bed at the youth hostel.
By now the rest of the cold symptoms were getting a good grip on Lionel. The blankets provided at the hostel were thin and the room was very cool. The tradeshow hours were very long—from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Lionel had no back up for breaks, and he was getting worn out. Travellers started to arrive filling other cots in his hostel room. It was now becoming harder to ignore the sounds of snoring and mid-dream conversations taking place. One fellow was having serious nightmares and repeatedly wakened everyone. In a faint attempt to get him to stop, a thin voice with an English accent very politely asked, "Excuse me, could you please stop doing that?" The demon that was tormenting the poor guy didn't seem willing to oblige, and so the nights of broken sleep continued…
I decided to surprise Lionel with some TLC. I packed up our big, fluffy, queen-size duvet, his pillow, and some natural foods to boost his immune system and drove to Regina. After days of shivering and no sleep, he was finally able to cover his head, snuggle into his quilt, and ignore his surroundings. That night he downed a dose of cold meds with a cup of hot tea and slept right through.
By the time we finished the shows we had acquired 1,200 subscribers to whom we were about to deliver our first regular issue. Some of those people are still subscribing today. We were (and are) so grateful to everyone who took hold of our vision and invested in our dream right from the beginning. We never would have made it without every single one of those people who had faith in us.