July 13, 2021

Convention Center welcomes first large event of 2021

Cultivate’21, the first large event in Columbus since Ohio’s public health emergency was lifted, opened July 10 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center when over 7,500 participants swarmed in from around the world.

The premier trade show hosted by AmericanHort — the association of the horticulture industry — attracted breeders, greenhouse and nursery growers, retailers, distributors, interior and exterior landscapers, florists, students, educators, researchers and manufacturers.

Participants, who consider the event an annual “Family Reunion” of the industry, had more than 150 educational sessions, as well as a variety of workshop and industry production tours, to choose from, says Sherry L. Johnson, CEM, CMP AmericanHort’s vice president of knowledge and business advancement.

“Our annual convention has been in Columbus for over 85 years, minus a few years when construction required us to temporarily host in Cincinnati,” she says. “Columbus has been our home. It was important for us to do whatever we could to have the event this year.”

That meant drawing up three different plans based on various health scenarios, she said. AmericanHort collaborated closely with the Greater Columbus Convention Center, City of Columbus, Fern Expositions, Levy Restaurants, and all of its hotel partners to implement the best health and safety practices possible. These include practices like social distancing, wearing masks, limiting group sizes that congregate and taking advantage of the numerous long-term safety technologies implemented by the Convention Center.

Unlike many industries, horticulture businesses flourished during the pandemic, Johnson said, as people sheltered in their homes and gardens. So, while the 7,500+ attendance was down from the 10,000 in 2019, it’s not because the industry has suffered — it’s because global travel is still restricted in many places, Johnson says.

The Greater Columbus Convention Center’s General Manager, John Page, noted the importance of Cultivate’21 as proof that large meetings are back and that they can be held safely here.

“This is one of the top 200 trade shows in the country,” Page said. “These large shows fill our city’s hotel rooms, restaurants, bars and shopping districts.”

While the Convention Center’s staff is reduced in size, operations are in full swing with a complete range of food and beverage services, a reopened Starbucks, and a working Smart Farm — an indoor hydroponic farm. Health and hygiene measures implemented over the past year will allow trade show exhibitors and attendees to gather safely and will allow events like Cultivate’21 to be hosted safely here well into the future, Page said.

“This is the first and largest trade show to be held this year,” Page said, “and the first of a number of events now scheduled in the second half of the year. We’ve developed a wonderful relationship with our event customers over the years, and we couldn’t be happier to have them back and to host them safely.”



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