It takes a city to make a village, and it happens every year.
First come the crates. Cubes and tubes of every size, heft and, notably, point of origin. Some are beautifully crafted, with interesting woods, careful joinery, and on-brand markings. Others less so, with utilitarian materials and slapdash scrawls.
They arrive by truck, perhaps, or by train, steamship, or plane. From the loading dock, they are unceremoniously whisked to an appointed address and deposited on a bare concrete ﬂ oor.
Soon this will be a bustling community, alive with people looking for their next deal or supplier, sure, but also with old friends and new, telling tales, catching up, planning for the year ahead.
But ﬁrst come the crates.
Welcome to HAI HELI-EXPO 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
Forklifts ﬂash past, approaching with a roar and high-pitched beeps, leaving in their wake the aroma of exhausted propane. Tires whistle and squeal across the cool concrete. There is an urgent camaraderie among the drivers, guiding these agile machines among the growing village and past each other hundreds of times. They effortlessly deposit their cargo, then pirouette and sprint away, to return with more.
Even with the structures assembled and the aircraft in place, myriad details remain to get just so. A bit of wiring here, trimming signage there, dressing the mannequin, polishing the paint, bolting something in or on or up or down.
It’s a persistent bustle, with machinery for the particularly high or heavy eff orts. But this phase of the build-out is mostly done by people, toiling away with tools in hand and, often enough, a smile.
Once the carpet is laid, the signage hung, and the brochures and business cards arrayed, the doors open. What is labeled as an exposition is, for many, more of a homecoming. Yes, a homecoming where multimillion-dollar deals are announced, but one also where people who might see one another only at this annual event reunite.
There will be talk of industry and family, of travel and of home. There will be newcomers, eager to join the community, and veterans returning for their 40th year, chatting, gesturing, commiserating.
By the afternoon of the third day, the multitudes and din both diminish, freeing visitors and exhibitors to make those ﬁrst hellos or last good-byes, snap some photos, spy a missed detail, or make a last-minute deal. Maybe slip off their shoes.
Soon the doors will close and empty crates will again ﬁll the aisles. Forklifts will do their dance and the village will evaporate, only to reemerge a year hence in a city far away,* diff erent yet the same.
But ﬁrst, up comes the carpet.