Kevin Hummer is a Businessman with over 30 years of experience in Northwest Missouri (just 1 hour north of Kansas City) with two Corporations and two retail businesses. The first corporation is a national, full-service event management company, RJ Promotions, Inc., which organizes over 30 consumer shows annually in six states. Hummer also operates the newly expanded nearly 100,000 square foot Colorado Springs Event Center in Colorado Springs, CO which hosts events throughout the year – including consumer shows, festivals, concerts, conventions, and business meetings. In addition, he owns and operates two retail malls in St. Joseph, MO – the Rusty Chandelier Vintage Market and Jesse James Antique Mall. Hummer and his wife Angie of 30 years have four sons ranging from junior high to college age.
What is the history of the Colorado Springs Event Center?
The Colorado Springs Event Center was in built in 2011 to replace an outdated facility, the Phil Long Convention Center, which had been sold to a church. We quickly found that the Event Center’s 45,000 square feet did not meet the needs of Colorado Springs’ 450,000 residents. Most consumer shows, like home and garden, RV, boat, and pet shows, require twice that square footage. So, we are in the process of adding another 45,000 square feet. The newly expanded space is expected to be open this summer.
What unique support services do you offer exhibitors and attendees?
One of the unique perks the Event Center offers show organizers is a marketing package aimed at its exhibitors. We work closely with local media outlets to help promote the events and its exhibitors to the widest potential audience.
We also provide assistance to exhibitors in setting up and taking down the events; in fact, the Event Center is probably one of the area's friendliest venues in working closely with the exhibitors to make sure their needs are met and that they have a pleasant experience. The center has over 2,000 free parking spaces for attendees, which is more than many venues of our size, and the facility provides up-to-date Wi-Fi services.
What kind of events are held at the Event Center?
In addition to consumer shows, bridal fairs, and private events, we host a variety of business-to-business shows. For instance, a construction company may rent our venue and invite all their potential vendors for a luncheon where they can meet to discuss projects and resources. Of course, we also host many traditional B2B trade shows that are organized around specific industries or industry associations.
On the consumer side, we are currently working with Comic Con, a multi-genre entertainment and comic convention, who will be bringing their event to Colorado Springs this summer. Comic Con needs multiple green rooms with private bathrooms for their event. We happen to have the required facilities in this venue and are able to meet their needs.
What is the availability of local, outside contractors like audiovisual services?
The center itself provides electrical and Wi-Fi services, as well as some basic furnishings. However, if an event organizer needs specialty services, like decorators and staging, they can negotiate with many suppliers in the Colorado Springs area, or even in Denver. We do offer to help them out with the tables and chairs to save them money; however, we don’t restrict them from providing their own supplies and setup equipment.
How is your venue space normally configured?
By utilizing the entire 92,000 square feet of exhibit space, we have room for approximately 500, 10 x 10-foot booth spaces. For large, or mixed, vendor spaces, the number might be more like 200 to 300. For some of our larger consumer events, like the RV shows, 250 vendor spaces would be a more typical configuration.
What are some of the other visitor attractions in Colorado Springs?
Because of its size and demographics, Colorado Springs itself is a wonderful attraction. For example, Comic Con’s team is looking for both a regional market and a site where they can draw people in from around the country. Colorado Springs offers not only beautiful parks and mountain views, but access to Breckenridge for skiing and Pikes Peak for touring.
For the more adventurous, Colorado Springs offers hunting, hiking, and white-water rafting. There are other exciting attractions available in our area. Zip lines that cross the Royal Gorge in Cañon City, the State Fair in Pueblo, baseball games in Denver, the Bishop's Castle, Cave of the Winds, and the Air Force Academy are all easily accessible from Colorado Springs.
The Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) is extremely helpful in providing travel and visitor information to event organizers’ attendees and exhibitors.
What are some of the upcoming events at the Colorado Springs Event Center?
Comic Con will open their show on August 25th, which will be the grand opening of our new, enlarged space. Comic Con is a big event and is expected to attract between 15,000 and 20,000 visitors.
The upcoming Colorado Springs Pet Expo is another one of our top shows. Colorado Springs is probably one of the most pet-friendly cities in the nation, where some restaurants even have a place for diners’ pets.
The Event Center has everything from gem and mineral shows to vintage market shows. Vintage market shows are a reincarnation of the traditional antique shows; and, during the last few years, about 50 vintage shows have popped up around the country. We are currently negotiating to bring one to the venue.
Another new show that has made its way up here from Texas is the Rocky Mountain Ice Cream Festival. For just the price of admission, visitors can get all the ice cream they can eat. It is a fun-filled event with food and music; and it is perfect family event.
What are the critical steps in planning a home and garden show?
For us, organizing an event, like a home and garden show, requires about two years of planning to make sure the facilities are scheduled and everything is in place. Then about year out, our sales staff starts contacting potential vendors to get commitments for 300 to 500 booth spaces.
Our overriding goal with consumer shows is to make sure that both vendors and attendees have a wonderful experience. So, we are very meticulous in providing staging and arranging for interesting entertainment. We analyze the time that an average attendee will spend at the show and look for ways to extend his stay. If we know somebody is likely to visit for 45 minutes, we would like to find ways to keep their attention for up to an hour and 15 minutes
Can you tell us briefly about promoting your RV show?
RV shows are perhaps the fastest growing category of consumer events. As the boomer generation retires, many are considering the RV lifestyle as a way to spend their retirement years. The RV dealers have found that these consumer events attract retirees and provide an effective way to market their units.
Because the RV shows draw audiences from a wide area, we have to schedule our marketing, social media, TV, and billboards well in advance of the event. During the event, we also plan one-on-one interviews early in the morning to make sure our radio flights are covered during the day.
What attracts people to the Iowa Flower, Lawn & Garden Show?
The Iowa Flower, Lawn & Garden Show is a 3-day event held in March each year at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines. The show attracts over 300 exhibitors displaying their products and services, and occupies an area of 100,000 square feet. Although somewhat cyclical, interest in lawncare and gardening has an underlying base of support and our show normally will draw 7,000 to 10,000 visitors.
What trends do you foresee for the future of the industry?
The RJ Promotions Company has been in business more than twenty years and has a lot of historical data that gives us the ability to forecast trends. We can correlate cycles in the event industry with the cycles of the broader economy. Right now, we are moving out of phase 2, and into phase 3, which is the full recovery phase. That phase has historically lasted from 2 to 5 years. Right now, most of the event industry is doing well.
In terms of growth, we are always on the lookout for events that might be applicable to our market area, both from the perspective of available vendors and attendees. Of particular interest would be shows that would be favored by the improving economy and changing demographics..