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On the Front Lines of COVID-19: Together Again Expo, Alliance Nationwide Exposition, CES & Rethink Fabrics

(Pictured above: Rethink Fabrics has turned its attention to making environmentally-friendly PPE masks)

by Amadeus Finlay

During the Second World War, Britain prepared for imminent Nazi invasion by developing the teeth-gritting motto, “Keep Calm and Carry On,” and while the slogan was never used, it has resonated throughout history as a rallying cry for perseverance. In 2020, the notion of keeping calm and carrying on has arguably never been more applicable, and in the event and tradeshow industry, pressing the reset button and pushing ahead is all that any of us can do for the foreseeable future. Each week, Exhibit City News covers the latest from the pioneers, the innovators, and those risking it all to keep the lights on—these are just some of those stories.

OCCCWith 1,400 live industry professionals, 8,225 virtual attendees and 250 exhibitors, the Together Again Expo, produced by Alliance Nationwide Exposition at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando (pictured right), tested the waters of how the tradeshow industry can go back to work during these challenging times.

Held on July 24, the Expo demonstrated how tradeshows can still be held in the era of the “new normal,” however long that might last. Social distancing, universal sanitization procedures and self-protective equipment provided the foundation for the show, with the adjustments making for a successful and replicable model.

As the first speaker for the show, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said, “This should stand for the model for the country and perhaps all over the globe,” while Together Again Expo founder Mark Yuska said, “Let this be the beginning of the restart, let this be the return of the 6.7 million jobs lost in the line of that industry.”

Unfortunately, due to restrictions by state governors and corporate travel bans, many shows are going online only for 2020. On July 28, after a lot of collective breath holding, the mega-event Consumer Electronics Show (CES) announced that the 2021 show will be held virtually.

“Amidst the pandemic and growing global health concerns about the spread of COVID-19, it’s just not possible to safely convene tens of thousands of people in Las Vegas in early 2021 to meet and do business in person,” explains Gary Shapiro, CEO of the Consumer Technology Association. “Technology helps us all work, learn and connect during the pandemic—and that innovation will also help us re-imagine CES 2021 and bring together the tech community in a meaningful way.”

Not the best news, but there are positive stories, even during a pandemic. In Las Vegas, sustainable apparel company Rethink Fabrics has re-positioned its model to become producers of environmentally-friendly personal protective equipment. Using only 100 percent recycled plastic water bottles, the firm is leading the way in a green revolution in the face of COVID-19.

“As tradeshows were being canceled,” says Terence Jackson, principle at Rethink Fabrics, “we were able to quickly re-purpose our fabrics from producing shirts to masks.

“Due to the fact that our fabric is already anti-microbial and water-wicking,” continues Jackson, “it was a logical progression to make masks for our customers. Moving forward we will continue to sell masks and other travel accessories that will protect travelers, tourists and tradeshow attendees while diverting plastic from oceans and landfills.”

Upcoming stories in this series will feature companies and individuals who have risen to the occasion to build temporary medical facilities, masks and whatever is needed during the current crisis. If your company is going above and beyond to assist in this fight, please email us at newsdesk@exhibitcitynews.com and Amadeus at amadeus_finlay@hotmail.com for inclusion in future stories in this series.

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