Vendors show wares and show off skills at annual trade expo

June 15, 2003|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

Thunder crackled Saturday afternoon around the time a skydiving team was scheduled to descend on the Washington County Agricultural Education Center north of Sharpsburg.

But the aerial show was in doubt regardless of the weather, said Bill Ramsey, the chairman of the trade show committee for the Associated Builders and Contractors of the Cumberland Valley's annual Outdoor Exposition & Beef Roast. There was word that President Bush was going to Camp David in Frederick County, Md., so the local no-fly zone might have been expanded Saturday, and the skydivers' plane might have been grounded.

Even without that extra attraction, and despite sporadic light rain, a few hundred people gathered to see a heavy machinery rodeo, eat lunch and bid on blocks, panels, lights and fixtures.


Ramsey, who works for Brechbill & Helman Construction Co. in Chambersburg, Pa., said ABC's Cumberland Valley chapter has had a trade expo for about 30 years.

Lately, companies from other niches have been invited to widen the scope and interest, he said. Saturday's 34 exhibitors included not just drywallers and roofers and masons, but companies selling boats, recreational vehicles and four-wheelers, too.

One parking lot was filled with classic cars and trucks. A 1936 Chevrolet truck sat near a 1974 Plymouth Roadrunner.

Facing the grille of a bright red 1972 Chevy Chevelle SS, Tom Minnick of Hagerstown chatted about politics with his grandsons, Jay Neil Jr., 9, and Jonathan, 6.

Minnick bought the Chevelle three years ago and gave it to his wife, Fay, for her birthday.

Fay Minnick, 65, said she loves the zippy engine that produces 500 horsepower.

"You step on the gas, you better have both hands on the steering wheel," said Tom Minnick, who races a 1967 Chevrolet Camaro with a 555-cubic-inch, 1,000-horsepower engine.

Fay Minnick said people stare quizzically at her car when it's parked in spaces reserved for senior citizens.

The car doesn't have a name yet, but it will probably be Miss Daisy in honor of all the time her husband spent driving her last year when she was ill, Fay Minnick said.

At the Alban Tractor of Myersville, Md., booth, people took turns going for simulated Caterpillar skid steer loader rides.

The earth-moving industry's version of a flight simulator allows people to sit in the driver's seat and move a joystick as a video depiction of their machine moves on a screen.

Ed Asper of Alban Tractor said the simulator version is almost identical to the real experience. Companies know that the youngest generation is growing up as ace video game players, so they're designing new equipment with that in mind, he said.

Asper said his industry is recruiting as early as middle school to show teenagers who may not be suited for college that "there's no sin to be moving dirt for a living. That brown stuff that gets on your shoes is money."

Chuck Wade strolled over from his Hagerstown Ford booth to give the simulated loader a try.

"You're an excavator's worst nightmare," Asper ribbed Wade as he fiddled with the joystick. "You're movin' air, buddy. You're supposed to be movin' dirt."

Asper said the chapter offers a good opportunity to network. He noted that Wade had previously wasted little time getting him a good deal on a Ford Explorer, which was parked nearby.

Inside one Ag Center building, Clean Earth of Md. Inc., a Hagerstown company, set up plastic trays comparing ash, kiln dust, "dirty crush-n run" and screened gill.

BJ's Custom Creations Embroidery Service of Hagerstown had a catalogue showing golf shirt, fleece and turtleneck designs they can produce with company logos.

ABC Merit Choice, the trade group's insurance provider, gave away free packets of four golf tees.

Visitors to the expo supped on chicken, baked beans, lemonade and ice cream and stayed for a mid-afternoon auction. Cumberland Valley chapter members donated the auction items, including toy cranes, a load of topsoil, an area rug and faucets.

A DeWalt drill went for $60. A worn high-top boot turned into a planter brought $4.

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