Live in Las Vegas: AWFS Fair to Take Place in Person

Grace Tatigian

For years, the AWFS® Fair has been a must-attend event for innovators in the industry. This is where so many businesses introduce their products to the market for the first time, and so its always been essential for anyone who wants to stay in the know. To date, approximately 400 companies have booked exhibitor booths for the event, so it promises to be as full of innovation as ever.


The elephant in the room, or rather, the exhibit hall, is, of course, COVID-19.


We talk about it every day; its a constant moving target,” says Elena Potter, Marketing Coordinator for AWFS®. Were making sure to stay up-to-date so we can provide a safe experience for everyone.” 


Unfortunately, the event wont have any virtual events for those unable to attend in person. And with international travel restrictions in place worldwide, it will be challenging to have as many countries represented as usual. This, however, has not deterred the Association of Woodworking and Furnishings Suppliers.


The big draw to the AWFS® Fair is seeing the products in person and seeing them in action,” explains Potter. Weve had some feedback from others in the industry, and a lot of people agree that an online version of this kind of event doesnt hold the same kind of value. So weve decided to do it exclusively in person.”


And so, to make sure its worth it, theyre refining their offerings, making sure to expand on what has been popular in the past, and include new features based on previous feedback. One such feature is the Safety Zone. This will be a section of the floor dedicated to exhibitors looking to highlight and promote that they are committed to providing safety gear for the industry. Safety for the job site and in the shop is essential every day, and in todays world are even more necessary.


Another new feature will be the Tool Tour. By popular request, exhibitors who specialize in hand and power tools will be placed around the show floor. With the help of the AWFS® Fair app, attendees will be able to go on a tour of all these exhibitors and see what fun new tools they can snag for their shop.


It will be kind of like an interactive tour,” explains Potter. Each attendee will get a bingo card with the different exhibitors included in the Tool Tour. When they go to a designated booth on the tour, they can get a stamp on their card. Its a little like a treasure hunt. When you fill the card, you can present it for a concert-style t-shirt that features all the Tool Tour exhibitors like at Coachella.” 


Fan favourites will also return to the Fair, some of them with a twist. When the Closets & Storage Pavilion came up in conversation, Potter couldnt say much.


Were in the process of adding a more interactive element,” she explained at the time of the interview in late April. Its in the works, and well be announcing it soon.”


But some tried-and-true features of the Fair will stay the same such as the Rapid Fire Presentations. Less formal and more spontaneous than the College of Woodworking Knowledge™, these quick, 15-minute exhibitor-led presentations happen on the show floor to demonstrate products and talk about the industry. Theyre an excellent opportunity for someone who wants to stay on the move and cant necessarily want to devote their time to the popular CWWK education program.


The two competitions: the Fresh Wood Competition and the AAW Turning to the Future Competition, will also be back. The Fresh Wood Competition allows attendees to see high school and post-secondary studentsoutstanding construction and design achievements. The AAW Turning to the Future Competition is where high school and post-secondary students submit projects made with lathes; finalist projects will be on display, and winners will also be announced at the awards ceremony. This is a fun way to see what young, up-and-coming woodworkers are creating.


People love to check in on the competitions and see what students are making,” says Potter. Its a great chance to see some fine woodworking from students all across the country.”


Besides these two student competitions, many other achievements will be recognized at the AWFS® Visionary Awards. The New Product Awards are prestigious awards recognizing exhibitors for innovation and new-to-market products, including any product introduced to the industry since July 2019. All companies whose entries are accepted will have their product featured in the Visionary New Product Showcase for the shows duration. 


These awards are rigorously judged,” says Potter, referring to the panel of third-party judges who select the winner. So its a big deal to get an award.”


Products go head-to-head in the following categories: components; software; industry 4.0; raw materials; plastic machinery/supplies; tooling; machinery under 50K; machinery over 50K; power tools and hardware. Applications for the Visionary Awards remain open until June 2021, and exhibitors can apply online.


While COVID-19 will definitely be an added challenge in organizing the Fair, AWFS has proven itself to be a leader in innovation and is up to the task.

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