Photos by Gael Hees

Thousands of people visit Vegas each year just to attend the many hospitality-related conferences and trade shows scheduled there. Here are my takes on just a few of these industry shows.

ExhibitorLive is a conference and trade show for those who, in fact, do trade shows. It features hundreds of exhibitor-related classes, and many attendees are pursuing their CTSM or Certified Trade Show Marketer designation. The trade show features everything from exhibit designers to magicians who can help attract people to your booth. I was really intrigued with the new offerings at AFR Furniture Rentals and Event Furnishings. This company’s designs are filled with color and style—couches, floor lamps, rugs, and ottomans, oh my. It would make any event space look like you meant to do that. Also consider Step 1 Dezigns’ LED Single Color Mini Flex Neon Lights, the thinnest flexible neon light available. It is very affordable ($3.82 a foot), and is good for displays, back- or edge-lighting, and stage surrounds, among other uses. 

The Nightclub and Bar Show is a huge party with a few classes and lectures thrown in (actually really good classes). I was lucky enough to be right on time and close to the front for the ribbon cutting and was literally swept onto the trade show floor by thousands of attendees eager to see what’s new and trending in the bar and nightclub world. 

This show had an incredible range of offerings including twinkly trees, foam cannons, single-use breathalyzer devices and washable/reusable straws. Highlighted were canabis-infused sodas, waters, candy, beer, coffee and ice cream. One of the things that was of interest was the number of games and activities available. I guess people don’t go to bars just to drink anymore. 

Axe throwing is reaching its heyday and people aren’t just throwing axes: you can find spears, ninja stars, tomahawks, shovels and metal throwing cards for your guests to heft at will. Axe Throwing Builders considers itself to be “on the cutting edge” of this growing sport, creating full-venue axe throwing experiences. Axe Pros has fully- and partially-enclosed lane designs, a mobile system and even a small home system. However, my favorite was EZ Inflatables that had an inflatable, bouncy-house-like “throwing lane” with a Velcro target and inflatable axes with Velcro “blades.” The line was just as long for this axe experience as the others and the yells for the man I watched hit the bullseye were just as loud. 

In addition to axe throwing, there was a digital beer pong table with automated tracking and LED lights. It was by Pong Connect, and I have to admit it was pretty cool, but only available for rent, not to purchase. There was the usual lineup of bar top video games, and even a fancy new ski ball machine. 

The item that most intrigued me was found at the Ripples booth where they had machines that can put messages on the foam atop a cup of coffee–and now–foam on a cocktail or beer. The secret is not so much the foam art machine itself, but the backup software. A bar or restaurant can use templates to add its logo, special dates or other art to the standard designs provided. Plus, a guest can send a photo or special message to the bartender or barista and the photo will appear on your coffee or drink order. Imagine a foam photo of your significant other delivered to your table as a surprise!

UNLVino, though not an event specific to the industry, is of great interest to us all. This year, the three offerings were again scheduled on different nights including Bubble-licious on Thursday, Sake Fever on Friday and The Grand Tasting, a celebration of food and beverage on Saturday. This year’s Saturday event featured a broad selection of wines, beers, cocktails and spirits (mostly white with a few craft whiskies thrown in). One of the longest lines was at the Far Niente table where we thoroughly enjoyed the Nickle & Nickle Cabernet Sauvignon. We were excited about having it again, only to discover it is in the $90-plus range. We also enjoyed the claret offered by Francis Coppola Winery. Both were rich hearty reds. 

Up next? The Hospitality Design Show. We’ll see what is discovered there.

Contact Information

AFR Furniture Rentals – www.afrevents.com

Step 1 Dezigns – www.step1dezigns.com 

Axe Throwing Builders – www.axethrowingbuilders.com 

Axe Pros – www.axepros.com 

EZ Inflatibles – www.easy.inflatibles.com

Pong Connect – www.pongconnectnyc.com

Ripples – www.drinkripples.com