ELKO — The Elko Mining Expo and golf tournament is slated to return in June, but the event will look different this year.
The Elko Convention & Visitors Authority postponed the 35th event in 2020 because of coronavirus concerns but is planning the 2021 expo for June 7-11 with extra precautions.
ECVA Executive Director Katie Neddenriep said she is confident that the ECVA can conduct the event safely and in a way that is compliant with mandates for the benefit of the mining industry and the community.
“I know some of the changes are not going to be popular; however, we want this event to happen,” Neddenriep said. “I think the industry wants this event to happen and our community from the economic impact [standpoint] wants this to happen.”
The state of Nevada has restrictions on large gatherings, and ECVA planners must submit a plan to the local health authority and state government for approval. The plan must show that event organizers are taking certain precautions to keep the event safe. Criteria include safety screenings, limiting attendance, social distancing, wearing face coverings and communication about proper hygiene.
“To not put the community at risk and not put the event at risk, we are operating on what the guidance is now, and we’ll adjust accordingly as the event gets closer,” Neddenriep said.
In previous years, the expo has been an industry trade show and public gathering combined. Mining professionals and community members attended the event in droves, with some attendance estimates reaching 8,000 people. Community members valued the event not just for the economic impact of tourism but also to give families a closeup look into the industry where many locals work.
This year, participant numbers will be capped at as few as 1,000 with priority given to exhibitors, vendors, sponsors and industry representatives. Registration will be online, and the ECVA will issue badges. Registration requirements are designed to assist with virus contact tracing, if necessary.
“If you look at some of the other industry conferences, you have to have a badge to go anywhere,” Neddenriep said, referring to the MINExpo International in Las Vegas and the SME Annual Conference.
The ECVA plans additional changes to help prevent the spread of disease.
Collecting giveaways such as logoed hats, pens and T-shirts has been a hallmark of past expos. Many participants could be seen leaving previous shows with tote bags full of swag.
This year, vendors will be limited to giving away items that they can hand out individually rather than allowing visitors to serve themselves.
Additionally, vendors will be limited to two people per booth and should expect to wear face coverings, Neddenriep said.
So far, the restrictions have not deterred exhibitors’ enthusiasm to return to the Elko Mining Expo.
Registration for the event partially opened March 2. Staggered registration allows organizers to ensure the event stays within current gathering restrictions and the proposed event plan.
Out of the 193 organizations invited in the first wave, 96 have confirmed participation, and nine have said they cannot attend because of company travel restrictions, said Kimberlee Longley, ECVA reservation and catering coordinator.
Komatsu confirmed its space on the front lawn outside of the Convention Center. Year after year, the company has used the outside exhibit space to showcase large pieces of it signature yellow equipment.
“We’ll follow all guidelines,” said Jason Ashby, general sales manager, mining. “It’s not going to prevent us from going forward.”
Northeastern Nevada has hosted the Elko Mining Expo since 1985. The event is touted as one of the oldest and most respected expos in the U.S., drawing international attendance.
The expo generates an economic boon for the community, as hoteliers and restaurant owners see increased business from visitors. The mining expo is also a revenue generator for the ECVA, and not having the event in 2020 meant the ECVA general fund took a hit.
“While we are disappointed circumstances beyond our control have forced these changes, we are excited the Expo will happen and strongly feel it will still greatly benefit the community,” said Matt McCarty, ECVA board chairman. “Elko lodging and dining establishments and retail stores all benefit from the influx of travelers for the annual Mining Expo, and we are optimistic this will be a successful step towards reopening and recovery for our community.”
Mining Quarterly at the 2019 Elko Mining Expo:
The 2018 Expo: