As budgets have tightened many golf course superintendents have forsaken their professional development line items. Often when this pinch occurs it is the National Show that gets cut as I have found most superintendents are loyal to their local, state and regional associations.
I certainly understand the impetus to cut a fairly big number when not attending the "National Show", but it makes me wonder if there is no longer any perceived value to attending. I am fortunate to be involved in the education offerings so I am not fiscally responsible, but I certainly have plenty of other things to do, yet I must admit I see enormous value in the National sort of.
I have been openly critical of the trade show since for me it is filled with so many irrelevant products and gadgets. At the same time unless you are Rip Van Winkle and have not been paying attention for the last five years you can see that the trade show concept is moving towards extinction. Much like my love for newspapers I may be part of the last generation that attends trade shows. I can tell you many vendors are not sure either as often the "decision-makers" are not walking the floor-they are "no-shows".
So where"s the value? For me the value is the educational offerings to a diverse audience. Every seminar I have taught the last ten years is filled with golf turf managers from dozens of countries and states. We engage in robust discussions as someone from Brazil comments on what someone from Minnesota might say about annual bluegrass.
This is a global industry and while many experienced members of the industry might forego this opportunity, the next generation of golf turf managers cannot. The golf turf industry has been somewhat insulated from the mobility many industries require. Yet, as competition for jobs becomes increasingly fierce, waiting for that local job may have dire consequences when you are one of 350 resumes the club is wading through.
There is enormous value in a broad perspective that is as easy as attending the show and sitting in a room of diverse professionals interested in learning and sharing. I love the regional shows like Ohio Turf or the New England Regional or great local shows like the Wisconsin Turf Symposium or MetGCSAA Winter Meeting.
In the end as we began it comes down to budgetary decisions. I get that and I know hard choices must be made. "Going to the National Show" needs to be on your list at least every few years, if not for the experienced superintendent, then for the young people you might be mentoring. If they are "No-Shows" now, they will have little to show for it when the line of 350 resumes lies ahead of them.