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Starting November 1st, this will be my fourth SEMA show that I've been to. For the first, in 2013, I went as a buyer with my partner Sean, who as a veteran in the business had been both a buyer and exhibitor. We arrived mid-week, toured the acres and acres of exhibitors, visited with a number of vendors Sean was working with and blasted off after a couple of days. The past two years, Sean Hyland Motorsport was an exhibitor, which meant flying in Saturday, setting up the booth Sunday and Monday, taking care of loading in our exhibitor vehicles, problem-solving a zillion little things and generally operating on caffeine and exhibition hall food court fare for the better part of a week until booth tear-down and grabbing the first red-eye home. This year, we're only exhibiting a vehicle at a tire company booth so I'm returning as a buyer again -much easier. By the way, the vehicle we're exhibiting is this stunning 2016 Urban Warrior 110 double cab pickup that was in the duPont Registry recently. Check it out at the Omni United booth in the lower South Hall.
Anyway, for those who are going, whether you're a first-timer or a veteran, I thought I'd compile and share a list of some of my tips in case they may benefit you. Also, there are a few things I'm looking forward to this year that perhaps you'd enjoy as well.
Things can get might expensive in Las Vegas at SEMA time, and the past two years, I tried rigorously not to overspend on certain things such as restaurant meals. However, I've made a practice of rewarding myself with at least a couple of nice dinners. My favorite places fill up quickly so I make practice of booking a few days beforehand. It may make all the difference between getting a reserved table at the time you want or waiting in line on standby for hours. I'd tell you where my favorites are but I'm not a restaurant critic and I don't want the added competition -one less thing to worry about.
I don't know how some people do it, but I see it all the time; men and women in flip-flops, high heels, and other impractical footwear for an event of this magnitude. Even the walk from either the monorail, taxi stand, parking lots or wherever to the various show entrances is non-trivial. My favorite shoe is a good pair of well-cushioned cross-trainers.
Get In Early -Have a Plan
Catch the marching band as they herald each show opening. A lot of folks don't get to see them but it's fun. Hanging out by all the builders' cars and schmoozing with other participants before show opening always produces ideas...
I can tell you as a past exhibitor that it's surprising how sleepy the show can be in the morning. From the vantage point at our booth, dozens of representatives, swag-staffers, and models could be seen hanging around waiting for any human contact. If you have priorities of vendors you need to see, I'd bet the ranch you could get their undivided attention much more easily at 9:15 am than 12:15 pm.
Be Careful About What You Carry
I learned this lesson the hard way my first year. Vendors are for the most part happy to have you carry of their literature. The printed pieces can range from a tri-fold brochure to a 128-page catalog. Combine these with baseball caps, stickers, ballpoint pens, sticky notes, stuffed animals, and other assorted trinkets and trash, and I was schlepping 35 extra pounds in a waist-high, imprinted nylon bag (also a freebie) within two hours. Do this for three days straight and you'll be paying a visit to your physiotherapist or chiropractor for sure. Still the worst was yet to come. Back at the hotel room three hours prior to departure I had to choose between buying more luggage and paying extra fees for a bunch of stuff that I could get over the internet anyway, or tossing almost all of it in the recycling bin on may way out of town. Take a guess. I wore the baseball cap and kept the stickers.
Get Outside Occasionally
One of the really nice things about the time of year when SEMA takes place is that the weather is usually perfect for exploring outdoors - low-to-mid-70's average mid-day temperature, and sunny. This year I'm looking forward to seeing the 2017 Ford Raptor and 2017 Focus RS being manhandled around the jump course set in front of the central building in the large "Ford Out Front" area. For those who love to inhale tire smoke, this is the place to be. Typically there are drift exhibitions, like the one in the featured video, while the Raptors and rally cars tend to find themselves airborne quite a bit. You can even arrange to go along for a ride, if you have the patience to stand in line and don't get motion sickness easily.
Unusually, I will also be planning an off-premises excursion to SpeedVegas (www.speedvegas.com), a new 1.5 mile racetrack facility opened up at the far southern end of Las Vegas Blvd. Here you can take an exotic car such as a Ferrari or Lamborghini, or less exotic car like a Corvette or Mustang, out on track for a few laps. On a cost-per-mile basis, this is way more money than a Las Vegas taxi, but should be way more entertaining.
See a Celebrity
The SEMA show is a magnet for car industry celebrities and there are plenty of venues for them to strut their stuff. Depending upon who it is and how long you're prepared to wait, you can get an opportunity to meet people you've seen on television, movies or on the internet and get an autograph. The daily SEMA show guide will tell you where they're going to be and when.
Get Your Souvenirs Early
If you are looking for a souvenir T-shirt or something else and you see something at one of the various licensed merchandise outlets that you like, don't wait too long. The popular stuff sells out by the end of the show. I usually get one a new SEMA hoodie every year. Working in a northern climate means traipsing around a cold garage from time to time throughout the winter and these have been invaluable.
Enjoy the show and perhaps I'll see you there!