TULARE -- With great anticipation, the World Ag Expo will open its doors Tuesday with a new crop of tractors, cost-saving technology and visitors from around the globe.
The Ag Expo, in its 46th year, is the biggest event of its kind in the nation, drawing an estimated 100,000 visitors during its three-day run.
Through Thursday, the grounds of the International Agri-Center will be carpeted with 1,500 vendors offering everything from auto-steering tractors to sprinkler parts.
"The ag industry is alive and well and we have lots of people who are very interested in seeing the latest products and new technology," said Jerry Sinift, Agri-Center general manager. "We expect to have a very good year."
And it isn't just farmers who will benefit. The expo pours millions of dollars into the region's economy. Restaurants, hotels, even hardware stores see a bump in sales.
"There is a lot of money being spent, and it's not just in Tulare County," said Paul Saldaña, chief executive officer of the Tulare County Economic Development Corp.
Some of the vendors and patrons are from the Northern San Joaquin Valley. The Tulare show is even more important to them with the Stockton Ag Expo no longer happening.
Longtime expo vendor Gene Jacobsen, owner of Jacobsen Trailers in Fresno, is amazed at how much the event has grown. One of the original vendors, Jacobsen recalls the early years when vendors huddled together in their booths, playing cards and having a drink because the crowds were so light.
"Now, it would take you two days to see the whole thing," Jacobsen said. "But we are not complaining. We do good business."
For many, the expo is part county fair, part trade show. Along with climbing inside the cab of the latest cotton harvester, you can munch on a rib-eye steak sandwich or enjoy Dutch oven apple cobbler.
The expo offers more than 40 seminars on topics including the dairy industry, international trade and irrigation.
On Wednesday night, Oliver North will be the guest speaker at the Ag Warriors benefit.
Also expected to draw a crowd this year is the Ag Expo's Top 10 New Products for 2013. Each year the expo showcases new products for their ingenuity and practical application.
Among the this year's winners is Visalia-based Hammer Works Manufacturing.
The newly formed manufacturer made its debut at the expo last year with a short-handled zinc composite hammer that absorbs energy to eliminate bounce, vibration and sparks when striking metal parts.
Mike Murphy of Hammer Works said he's anxious to show off his new product and Top 10 product award winner: a quick-release battery connector. Murphy said the device is ideal for anyone who needs to quickly disconnect and replace a battery.
Unlike regular battery cables that are attached by a nut and bolt, the quick release connector comes off in seconds.
"In this day and age of farmers wanting to save time and money, this will help make swapping batteries from one piece of equipment to another a quick and easy job," Murphy said.
WORLD AG EXPO
WHEN: Tuesday and Wednesday 9 a.m. to5 p.m.; Thursday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
WHERE: International Agri-Center, just east of Highway 99 in Tulare
COST: $12 general admission at the gate. Children 6 and younger free
PARKING: Free on the expo grounds, but free, off-site parking is encouraged. A park and ride shuttle is available.
ON THE NET: www.worldagexpo.com.