Sparing No Expense

The forerunner to the International Custom Rod Building Exposition was first held in 2004 as the National Rod Building Show.  I partnered with Barry Serviente and his Fly Fishing Shows network and utilized a portion of the hall he had leased at the enormous Charlotte Convention Center.  At the same time our shows were taking place, several other events were being held in other halls within the same facility. Although this beautiful facility easily handled all the events, the set up and break down periods were met with crowded dock conditions and limited moving equipment. The experience was not terribly user friendly from the exhibitor’s point of view. Of course, such is the nature of so many trade and consumer shows.


In 2007, when I moved the event to the Showplace in High Point, I was given the opportunity to lease only as much of the facility as I needed. But this meant that others could lease portions of the facility on the same weekend, leaving us in a similar situation to what we had in Charlotte, with my exhibitors having to share the same dock space and moving equipment as the other events taking place that same weekend. Not to mention, our attendees would have to share the parking lot and concession area with the attendees of the other events. It was at that moment that I made the decision to dispense with profit and focus on having the most user friendly event possible for the exhibitors and attendees – I leased the whole damn place!

Granted, we only really needed about 65,000 to 70,000 square feet to hold our 70 to 80 booths and related seminar rooms and ticket/consession areas, but I wanted my exhibitors and attendees to have the best possible experience, being able to focus on the event and not worry about crowded dock or parking areas, long ticket or concession lines or anything else that happens when you put several events into the same facility on the same weekend. Yes it’s expensive, but it’s a bargain as well. No pipe and drape – we have hard wall systems and full carpeting, wall to wall. Exhibitors don’t have to deal with a separate decorator or shipping firm – it’s all taken care of within a single facility. Attendees park for free and never have to wait in long lines or maneuver through crowded aisles. Everything about the Expo is absolute top-shelf. 

Do I regret spending several times over what I have to spend in order to host this event? Not at all. Although I could certainly do it cheaper and put the savings in my pocket, my goal remains to host one of the finest craft oriented events in one of the finest convention facilities in the world (and… booth spaces and admission fee are less than they were in 2004 in Charlotte!).  No one can say that the custom rod building craft’s premier event isn’t the equal or better of any woodworking, knife-making, or associated craft event held anywhere in the world today and I’ve spared no expense to make it happen. There is truly nothing else like the Expo!


Tom Kirkman




  1. seawellJ on December 20, 2011 at 11:06 pm

    I have been attending assorted rod building events since the late 1970’s. Have been to Clemens Rodcrafter seminars and others as well. All were helpful and fun. The first ICRBE I attended was in High Point at the convention center pictured above. I was blown away. I doubt there are many of us old time rod builders that ever thought custom rod building would have anything like this. Not in a million years. Our hobby can be proud to have something on this level. The youngsters have no idea what rod building seminars were like before the ICRBE came along. They were good but nothing like this.

  2. Boltman on December 20, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    No surprise.You do everything this way. No second best.

  3. Hogger on December 21, 2011 at 2:22 am

    Attended the 1st or 2nd show in Charlotte. Great show. Didn’t know if High Point would come off but it has been nothing short of great. Keep it up.

  4. SHuddleston on December 21, 2011 at 3:15 am

    We can only afford to attend one event and living in Idaho we have to travel a long way where ever we go. Since the ICRBE is larger than all the other shows and events put together its a no brainer for us to go there. We make a week of it and drive in and see the sights on the way out and back. Great show. We will be back every year.

  5. Mudbug on December 21, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    Tom is not telling the whole story either. My company has exhibited at numerous trade events all over the Country including ICast and IFTD shows and his Expo is the most user friendly of any of them. We drive and pull a trailer and Tom leases a truck lot across the Street from the Showplace where we and the other vendors who drive can park our vehicles and trailers for free. When we unload at the dock there are workers there ready to help us and take our products to our booths. They do not charge a dime for this service and will not accept tips. Although not as large as ICast the Expo is by far the biggest show when it comes to value for the exhibitors. It is the best run event we have ever attended and we will continue to exhibit there as long as the show is running. Well done Tom.

  6. Tom on December 21, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    I often joke with some of the exhibitors and mention that the only mistake I made in leasing the Showplace was that if I ever moved the event, no matter how nice the new facility might be, it would still likely be a step down from what we’ve become accustomed to at the Showplace. It’d be a tough act to follow.