Expo West is a circus. Instead of three rings, it has five pavillions. Instead of popcorn and cotton candy, it has natural kettle corn and endless amounts of samples. Instead of elephants and flying trapezes, it has booths that climb to the ceiling.
I expected this carnival-like setting and the scale of the event. I never expected how such a huge show could feel like such a small community. Talking with people, I learned of a passion and drive I wasn't expecting to see.
I spoke with one woman, Susan Schulman, a retailer and founder of Herb Fest in Colorado Springs, Colo., about her experience at Expo. She was at the first Expo West 30 years ago and has been coming ever since. "It's like knowing someone when they are an infant and now knowing them with kids of their own," she said of how Expo has changed. "It is still family. This is what I've grown up with."
Other attendees felt empowered through different educational sessions and with conversations they had on the show floor. Peter Melton of Klean Kanteen was so moved by Bill McKibben's keynote address that he spoke with the owner of his company and other bottle manufacturers like Sigg to get the 350.org symbol on the bottles, along with an explanation of how consumers can get involved to end climate change.
Maybe this is commonplace, but it's the small things like meeting these people that have shaped my Expo experience. I look forward to next year where I will become more of an Expo circus carnie and join the traveling show.