Despite a sluggish economy and uncertainty over a partial government shutdown now in its second week, Sunbelt Agricultural Exposition is expecting a strong show this year.
The 36th annual edition of Expo, known as the largest North American farm show that features a field exhibition area, opens Oct. 15 and ends Thursday.
Due to the government shutdown, a 2013 federal payment to farmers did not go out last week as scheduled. Area peanut and cotton growers are in the middle of their harvest.
“We’re very blessed,” Expo Executive Chip Blalock said. “The ag economy has been good from a marketing standpoint the last couple of years, although it’s down a little this year. It’s a real blessing, even in this economy of uncertainty.”
More than 1,200 exhibitors are expected, Blalock said. That would be one of the better years in terms of the number of exhibitors for the show.
New for 2013 is the return of corn combines to Expo’s fields. Those machines will be in action at 11 a.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, with soybeans on the same days.
Cotton and peanut equipment will be in use in the farm show’s 600-acre crop area.
Also this year, Blalock said, the Chevrolet test truck exhibit has been moved from the fields to the exhibition area.
As for the economy of Colquitt County and surrounding counties, there is no uncertainty about Expo’s impact.
The show fills hotels up to 50 miles away from Moultrie — maybe more — and also brings crowds to restaurants and stores. Attendance last year was about 80,000.
A one-day pass at Expo is $10, or $20 for three days. Children under 10 are admitted free with an adult. Gates open at 8:30 a.m. each day of the show, closing at 5 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday and at 4 p.m. on Thursday.
“We’re looking forward to a great crowd,” Blalock said. “The weather’s going to be great. We’re looking forward to thousands of people from all over the world.”