(MCT) DECATUR — Teri Hammel is prepared to guide visitors from at least 40 countries who will be among those descending on Decatur beginning today for the Farm Progress Show.
She’s counting only those who have preregistered online. Hundreds more likely have not registered, said Hammel, executive director of the Decatur Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“There has been a larger international response than ever,” Hammel said.
She and a group of volunteers will offer international visitors a welcome area in the Hospitality Tent at Progress City. Some of the visitors don’t know English, so Hammel has lined up interpreters.
“I couldn’t do it without them,” she said.
Thousands more visitors are expected to travel to Decatur in the next three days from across the country for the largest outdoor farm showcase in the nation. Show Manager Matt Jungmann is hoping for a crowd that rivals attendance in 2009, when similar weather conditions throughout the growing season meant farmers in the Midwest were not yet ready for harvest.
As a result, the Illinois State Police issued a reminder to motorists that interstates, state highways and other Decatur area roads will be congested through Thursday. The heaviest traffic is expected on Interstate 72, with backups in and around the Decatur area. Traffic tends to be stopped on I-72 and Illinois 48 during the morning commute, according to the state police.
The troopers, along with the Macon County Sheriff’s Office and Decatur Police Department, will be monitoring and directing traffic in the area surrounding Progress City USA. Signs are posted along I-72 and surrounding highways directing drivers to parking for the show site.
Part of a 40-acre cornfield north of Mound Road near Progress City was plowed over this weekend as organizers are expecting the need for overflow parking.
Richland Community College will not be holding classes today and Wednesday. Classes will resume Thursday, the last day of the show.
As visitors began making their way to Decatur on Monday, including campers preparing to stay over the next few days near Progress City, exhibitors were finishing up their displays.
“They’ve really stepped their exhibits up,” Jungmann said. “Everything new at the show has nothing to do with me. It’s the work the exhibitors do.”
Some companies are looking to allow show attendees get as up-close of a feel for their products as possible.
Yamaha plans to offer test drives of the Viking all-terrain vehicle it launched in June, spokesman Van Holmes said.
“It’s a unique opportunity to reach this number of people,” Holmes said. “It’s a big event for us.”
The goal of setting up a test track at the Farm Progress Show is to show what the vehicle is capable of, particularly in off-road situations such as what many farmers would be using it for, Holmes said.
Farm Progress is one of many sites to which Yamaha brings its products, but Holmes said it has become one of the most worthwhile.
“Shows like this are extremely important to show products to the agricultural farm audience,” Holmes said. “The Farm Progress Show is a popular event. It’s grown quite a bit in the last few years. You don’t have to work in the agriculture industry long to understand it’s an important place to be.”
Hammel is looking forward to having all the visitors arrive in town.
Hotels fill up within a 60-mile radius of Decatur. With about 1,300 hotel rooms in Decatur and the need for more than 10,000 rooms this week, Hammel said the impact stretches to Champaign, Bloomington, Springfield and elsewhere.
An international host hotel has been set up for the first time, with the Eastland Suites Hotel and Conference Center serving as the base for foreign visitors, she said. Shuttle service will be provided to the show, she said.
“We love hosting the show and any event we have here,” Hammel said. “This one takes the cake. So many people are involved.”
Those at the Farm Progress Show can expect temperatures similar to the show in 2007. The National Weather Service is predicting highs in the 90s in the Decatur area.
Drinking plenty of water, taking breaks and wearing loose fitting clothing and sunscreen is advised, said Bill Wood, coordinator of emergency medical services for St. Mary’s Hospital.
“Take a break off the asphalt,” Wood said. “Go into the grass five steps and see if you can feel the difference. As for the tents, if it’s got walls on it, it’s air conditioned.”
Many exhibitors offer bottled water to visitors, and more shaded areas with places to sit have been added to Progress City since the 2007 event, when at least 119 people were treated for heat-related ailments.
©2013 the Herald & Review (Decatur, Ill.)
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