2020 was Madison’s first year without an Expo since the event’s inception, as COVID-19 forced it’s cancellation. Now, Dane County could lose the event for at least another year, as the Expo is in talks to relocate for its 2021 show.
Last week, Expo officials issued a statement that they were considering alternate venues, citing the “uncertainty [that] remains surrounding future health regulations that may govern Madison at the time of the Expo.”
In response, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced on March 10th a proposal to extend the World Dairy Expo’s contract with Dane County for the next 10 years. Parisi said that he is hopeful that both parties can come to an agreement that keeps their long standing partnership intact.
“If we get a long term contract with them, then our region, Madison, Dane County, and the entire state reaps a huge economic benefit from this international conference…so we want to make sure that we can keep this partnership going with them for years to come,“ Parisi said.
This proposed extension would keep the event in Madison through 2030.
The contract also will also allow the 2021 and 2022 shows to be hosted in Dane County at no cost to the Expo. That means that they will not be charged for their use of the Alliant Energy Center facilities, which would save them roughly $1 million.
Parisi explained that the deal will also help the Expo recoup its losses from cancelling its 2020 event.
“We want to be able to offer them the opportunity to continue to host at the place where they have had so much success, but do so in a way that recognizes that they, along with so many others, have had quite a challenging year due to the pandemic, and had to forgo the income of one entire show,” Parisi said.
Each year the Expo brings cattle shows, contests, and the world’s largest dairy-focused trade show to Madison. It attracts an audience of about 62,000 folks from 100 countries.
The Expo is also a sizable source of revenue for businesses in Dane County. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, it creates an estimated economic impact of over $45 million during its five day stay, with much of the benefit going to hotels and restaurants.
Darin Von Ruden, President of the Wisconsin Farmers Union, said that bringing the show to Madison every year is important to the state’s dairy farmers.
“The reputation that we have of being world class leaders, and having the ability to show off the dairy industry in the state of Wisconsin during that week is really critical to keeping the industry alive and prosperous here in the state,” Von Ruden said.
But, Von Ruden says that the health of attendees and local residents should still be first priority.
“We need to be safe first…if we have to scale down what’s happening at the World Dairy Expo to meet the demands of what the coronavirus is causing, let’s see if there’s something we can do on that scale, and then look at maybe next year having a full blown World Dairy Expo again,” Von Ruden said.
The proposal is now waiting for approval from the World Dairy Expo Board. If the Board approves it, it will go to the County and the Board of Supervisors to be ratified before taking effect.
In an emailed statement to WORT, a World Dairy Expo spokesperson wrote that Parisi’s proposal will be reviewed by the Expo’s leaders in the coming weeks. They expect to have a final decision later this spring, although no firm date was given.
The 2021 World Dairy Expo is tentatively set for September 28th through October 2nd.
(Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture on Flickr)