This Show’s Soundtrack Should Be ‘Gimme Shelter’

Author: Casey Gale       

Many organizers have worked with tent-rental companies for their special events. And not surprisingly, there’s an annual conference for those tenting professionals — where even the educational sessions take place in tents. Now in its 32nd year, The Tent Show brings owners and managers of and installers from tent-rental companies who are members of the Manufacturers and Tent Renters Association (MATRA), as well as tent manufacturers, together under one roof. Make that under one tent.

“The concept of The Tent Show,” said Michael Tannen, MATRA’s executive director, always has been to give the tent installer the chance “to talk one-on-one with the tent manufacturers and also have a hands-on experience with the tents.” At the 2018 Tent Show Nov. 5–8, 2018 at Hershey Lodge in Hershey, Pennsylvania, that meant that attendee groups could tour tents from 18 different tent companies.

Overall, 76 exhibitors and 600 attendees participated in the 2018 show, which featured sessions that included “Know It: Frame Tent Fundamentals & Pole Tent Particulars Keep Anchoring: Holding It Down,” and “Store It: Warehousing.”

Blown Away

In 2017, The Tent Show offered a wind demonstration in which an “extremely large fan” was turned on to show “how a high wind gust could damage a tent if not properly secured,” Tannen said. “We have a wind monitor that shows the wind speed in miles-per-hour, so the wind gusts we replicate may go up to 60 mph.” The demonstration was such a hit in its first year that it was brought back in 2018 to see if a 10’ x 10’ tent could withstand gusts, and what the resulting damage might be. Participants also were invited to stand by the tent, wearing facial guards for protection, to feel the wind’s impact.

Frame of Mind

Though the world of tenting might sound dry to those outside the industry, The Tent Show finds ways to add some zip to its educational programming.

At the Olympics-inspired MATRA Games, running now for more than 20 years, participants compete in a variety of challenges — activities that installers perform on a regular basis, such as stake-driving, knot-tying, and tent-folding — allowing only one or two contestants to perform at a time. Winners are announced at the event’s annual dinner and given the coveted prize, the Golden Sledgehammer (not a symbolic trophy name). “Yes,” Tannen said. “They get a golden sledgehammer as part of the award.”

There’s a Meeting for That, too