"Doggone excited": World Dairy Expo finally coming back next week

Grace Connatser
Wisconsin State Farmer
The dairy industry will return to Madison, Wis. for the 54th World Dairy Expo running from September 28 through October 2, 2021. Touted as the world’s largest dairy-focused trade show, the five-day event will also feature dairy and forage seminars, a world-class dairy cattle show and more.

After a long two years, the dairy industry's premiere event World Dairy Expo is coming back to Madison Sept.. 28 to Oct. 2, 2021.

The event's first cancelation in 53 years (since its inception) happened last year due to public health concerns during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though some virtual events still went on in its place, the void of a canceled Expo was still profound. Now that it's coming back, many in the industry are excited to see the Expo goings-on once again.

"We're doggone excited and we look forward to welcoming our friends and family in the agricultural space to Expo 2021," said General Manager Scott Bentley. "We're just very pleased to be at this point and we're very confident we're going to have a highly successful Expo 2021."

Bill Hageman, president of the WDE Board of Directors, said Expo staff are doing everything they can to ensure safety among everyone visiting the Alliant Energy Center next week. Masks will be required in some indoor spaces, such as the trade show, while outdoor spaces will not require them, but require adequate social distancing. Since the event attracts tens of thousands of people every year, including a large amount of international guests, he said it's "imperative" that certain guidelines be in place.

Bill Hageman at the 2017 World Dairy Expo

"We're trying to be a good partner and do the things necessary for our trade show so that our clients and our customers can have a successful and exciting event," Hageman said. "We want people to have a great experience, and we want people to stay safe ... and healthy so it's going to look a little different. People will have to be patient."

Although "World" is in the name due to the event's global nature, Hageman said he doesn't expect to see the usual amount of international attendees due to travel restrictions and health concerns. He said most Canadian exhibitors are expected to be there because of proximity, but the Expo will largely consist of domestic exhibitors this year. Economy and supply chain issues have also affected international guests' ability to travel.

MORE: The dairy cattle are coming back to Madison!

Expo will also feature virtual versions of many programs, especially educational seminars and workshops on the WDE website for those who aren't able to come in person. Hageman said it's clear attendance will be down for this year, but the dairy cattle show entries have remained strong, as well as domestic trade show entries.

"Our entries for the dairy cattle show are higher than they were in 2019 at this point, so we expect the dairy cattle show to be exceptionally competitive and carry a lot of excitement," Hageman said. "Our US commercial exhibits are really strong, and even in some cases where we lost some exhibitors for this event, we had other exhibitors who asked for a bigger footprint or expansion."

One goal for WDE staff that has been especially prevalent during the pandemic has been increasing the event's "digital footprint," Hageman explained, because they want a bigger online presence that allows the event to be more easily accessible over the internet. Other goals were also met this year, with the expansion of the Trade Center that will fit more vendors than ever at the annual trade show, as well as the relocation of the Tanbark hospitality lounge to the arena building.

Scott Bentley

Bentley said that while the Trade Center plans were created pre-pandemic, the Tanbark relocation came about during pandemic planning. He said having a central place to gather is important for keeping eventgoers connected and engaged. The Tanbark will feature a concert on Saturday, Oct. 1, happy hour during the week from 4 to 6 pm and a daily 8 am "Tanbark Talk" coffee event.

"We wanted to expand the footprint of the Tanbark – we wanted to make it more central and more desirable, more of an anchor of our entire World Dairy Expo experience," Bentley said. "It's been two years since many industry stakeholders have interacted and socialized with other industry stakeholders and leaders, so to be able to provide a forum for that to take place is something that we're very proud of."

Hageman and Bentley said they both feel that the WDE staff, attendees, vendors, exhibitors and everyone else involved represent a family within the dairy industry. Having to cancel the 2020 show hurt, but having it back again will allow the family to reconnect with people they may not have seen in years, they said.

"It's kind of corny, but it's a big family. A lot of the people that exhibit, volunteers, parents and coaches of the youth participants, they might not see most of these people in the course of the whole year. It's the only time they get together," Hageman said. "So there's a personal side to the business ... the family coming back together and celebrating dairy."

For complete information on the 2021 World Dairy Expo including schedule of events, admissions and more visit