Wednesday, September 14, 2011
2011 Oil Sands Trade Show and Conference, Fort McMurray
Well, people, I'm going to admit it right up front - I know very little about the oil sands industry. I've never worked in the industry, and while I know many who do I can't claim any direct and personal knowledge. This week, however, curiousity got the best of me and I found myself at MacDonald Island to check out the exhibitors at the 2011 Oil Sands Trade Show.
I knew this was a big event when I arrived at Mac Island and found myself being directed to park on the grass. Way, way far away on the grass, in fact, in a far corner where I found one of the few parking spots that were free. This should have been my first clue that this is an enormous trade show, but I can be a little slow in that regard and thus it wasn't until I stepped into the building that I realized exactly how big the trade show is.
I headed to the registration desk and told them I'm a local writer who was interested in finding a specific person at the show (which I was, an artist named Lucas Seaward, about whom I plan to write more soon). They very helpfully handed me a visitor pass, and while I came to see Lucas I ended up staying to explore the trade show a bit.
What I discovered was a world of safety equipment, valve fittings, work boots, and stainless steel applications. I found exhibits from hotels and local oil sands companies. I found myself standing bewildered in front of a few booths where very kind folks tried to explain about things like cranes and valves (people, those things are NOT my area of expertise). I suspect they clued into the fact that I'm not "in the industry" pretty quickly but they still were kind enough to answer my questions (no doubt shaking their heads and laughing when I walked away). I marvelled at the big cranes set up in the Mac Island parking lot, and I loved the highway-pavement themed carpet runners in the exhibit areas.
And those exhibit areas are enormous. I was surprised they didn't have exhibits stuffed into the women's locker room and beside the treadmills at the gym as they seemed to be everywhere else, spilling out into the halls and jostling for space in the field houses. I was thrilled to see all this activity, and to note that many people seemed to be coming here from other cities (and countries) to participate. They were here staying in our hotels, visiting our restaurants, and hopefully getting a glimpse of our community pride and spirit.
Look, people, I will likely never fully understand valve fittings. I'm hopeful in that I seem to have a better understanding of how cranes work, and I even find the safety equipment a bit fascinating. For me, though, the Oil Sands Trade Show is very much a chance to just explore an area about which I know little but am very curious. For those in the industry it is a chance to network and learn and further expand their knowledge, and their business. And for those who come to Fort McMurray from other places to attend the show it is a chance to see our community, and perhaps go home with positive stories about their time here. For that reason alone I think it is a very important event in our community, and I do hope all attendees have a terrific time in this city. I hope they make all those valuable connections and sell some of those valves and educate people on that safety equipment - and I hope they leave Fort Mac thinking that this is not only a great place for a trade show, but a great place to be, too.