Organizers of the NoCo Hemp Expo — definitely Colorado's, and possibly the country's, largest annual hemp-industry conference — have just announced that it will be postponed because of worries over COVID-19.
The expo, originally slated for March 26 through 28 at Denver's National Western Complex and Renaissance Denver Stapleton Hotel, will now be held August 6 through 8 at the same locations, according to NoCo Hemp expo producer Morris Beegle.
With big gatherings around the country changing schedules — South by Southwest in Austin canceled and the Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim was postponed until further notice — large conferences, trade shows, festivals and other public events are starting to lose support as coronavirus fears spread faster than the illness itself, Beegle notes. As NoCo exhibitors, sponsors, attendees and speakers told him that they didn't want to fly into Denver and were skipping the conference, Beegle and his team decided on a redo instead of canceling altogether.
"We started getting calls left and right. When South by Southwest pulled the plug, we had some of our political folks and speakers in D.C. say they had travel restrictions. This is just the tip of the iceberg," he says. "Looking at this down the road, hopefully in eight to twelve weeks — sixteen weeks, tops — everything has sort of blown over, and business is back to normal."
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Beegle says he plans to put on a web conference in April for expo attendees, and says that August's event will honor tickets for the original March dates; refunds are also available for anyone who can't make it this summer. By postponing more than four months down the road instead of canceling, Beegle hopes that most, if not all, of the expected 400 hemp vendors and 20,000 attendees — as well as keynote speakers including Governor Jared Polis and state and federal agriculture officials — will be at the August event.
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"Canceling would be way more of an impact, but fortunately we can pivot, and we've been on top of this. I think we'll have the vast majority of everyone who originally signed on," Beegle predicts.
And if no one wants to leave home because of coronavirus by August? "Are we just going to shut down our entire country and the world?" he responds.
So far, eight cases of COVID-19 have been identified in Colorado, with over 500 reported cases, including twenty deaths, across the country.
The NoCo Hemp Expo postponement could signal the start of other schedule changes for Denver marijuana events, many of which take place around April 20 for the 4/20 holiday. "I would say almost anything in April is going to be very tough for people to hold," Beegle concludes.