He says it every year — and it always proves to be true. “We're going to have the best show ever,” Lee Todd predicts.”

But he has even more reason this year for that upbeat forecast. With the expansion of the Memphis Cook Convention Center, the show will have an additional 35,000 square feet of exhibits, making it far and away the largest show ever.

The 51st annual event, set for Feb. 28-March 1, will feature an extensive array of equipment, products, and services, and says Todd, who is show manager, “We're looking forward to having the biggest attendance ever. We hope everyone has these dates circled on their calendars.”

The show is sponsored by the Southern Cotton Ginners Association, with Delta Farm Press as co-sponsor.

The exhibit is the largest indoor assembly of agricultural products and equipment in the Mid-South, and the largest cotton equipment trade show in the nation.

Both exhibit space and the number of exhibitors have increased substantially each year, Todd notes, but growth has been limited by the space available at the convention center. With the expansion finally complete, this year there's room for exhibitors who've been on a waiting list and for long-time exhibitors to expand their space.

“In effect, it's just going to be a brand new show,” he says. “Everything will be arranged so people can move about more easily. There'll also be expanded food service, so those attending the show will have a wider choice for meals and breaks.

“The show will offer the latest technology, the newest equipment, and the most up-to-date information available to help farmers get ready for the new production season,” says Todd.”

For the past half-century, he says, the show has been a magnet for leading farmers, ginners, equipment manufacturers-distributors, chemical companies, and providers of a wide variety of services and products for all Mid-South crops.

“There's just one reason for the show's growth and success: It's one of the best ag exhibits in the country, and we intend to keep it that way. We put a lot of effort into improving the show each year. We want everyone to know that when they come to the show, they'll have one-on-one access to the very latest in agriculture.”

Sledge Taylor, Como, Miss. ginner and president of the Association, says today's farmers “have to stay abreast of the many changes that are taking place in agriculture, and this show is one way they can get the latest information of interest to them.”

In addition to the exhibits, the program includes several Ag Update Seminars, featuring leaders from various industry segments, who offer information on marketing, research, and other important topics. The speaker lineup is:

Friday, Feb. 28, 8:30 a.m.: Richard Bell, Riceland Foods chief executive officer, will present the market outlook for grains; Bobby Green, the new National Cotton Council chairman, will provide an update on council activities; and Memphis cotton merchant William Dunavant will give his annual forecast for U.S. and world cotton.

Saturday, March 1, 8:30 a.m.: Berrye Worsham, president of Cotton Incorporated, will discuss how the producer-funded research and promotion organization helps U.S. growers; O. A. Cleveland, Jr., cottonexperts.com, will discuss cotton economics for 2003; and the program will conclude with a farm legislation update by a staff member from the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee.

At the same time all this is going on, the Southern Cotton Ginners Association and its member organizations will be holding their annual meetings. They include the Arkansas-Missouri Cotton Ginners Association, the Mississippi Cotton Ginners Association, the Tennessee Cotton Ginners Association, and the Louisiana Cotton Ginners Association. Most association meetings and events, including an honors reception/banquet, will be held at the historic Peabody Hotel.

At the annual meeting of the groups Thursday, Feb. 27, at 1:30 p.m. in the Venetian Room at the Peabody, speakers will include: Rick Holder, president, National Cotton Ginners Association; Jerry Marshall, Cargill Cotton Inc., and Jerry Gilbert, Mississippi State University.

Delta Farm Press will publish the official program for the show, which will be distributed to all subscribers in the Feb. 21 issue and to the Alabama circulation of the Feb. 19 Southeast Farm Press. The program will also be available to all show attendees.