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Agriculture exposition moves to Metra Arena
Larry Mayer/Gazette StaffKier and Olyn Pederson, ages 5 and 6, or Circle, play inside the wheel of a new John Deere tractor at the Montana Agri-Trade Exposition Thursday.

While bowlers are knocking down pins at MetraPark’s Expo Center, they have also knocked the center’s traditional tenant, the MATE show, out of that building and into Metra’s Arena.

The American Bowling Congress Tournament has set up shop in the Expo Center for the next several months. That means the Montana Agri-Trade Exposition – which usually takes up the Expo Center and the Montana Pavilion – had to shift gears and put its 320 exhibitors in the Pavilion and MetraArena. The space available in MetraArena is smaller than in the Expo Center.

Jerry

If you go The MATE show continues today from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the MetraPark Arena. Tickets are $7.

Hanson, MATE’s producer for the event’s 26 years, said the switch has caused a few problems, but none that his staff hasn’t been able to overcome.

“We had to work harder to sell more exhibitors for smaller spaces,” he said.

Many exhibitors that had taken five or six booths had to settle for two this year.

Mark Prewett, a salesman at the Billings Equipment Co. booth, said his display is two spaces smaller than usual, which means less space to sell his Case and New Holland equipment.

“The stuff doesn’t fit as nice,” he said. “It’s crowded.”

Two visitors from Glasgow didn’t notice the smaller spaces. Mike Johnson and Wade Engstrom both work for Hiline Ford in Glasgow.

“It’s nice in here,” Johnson said.

“It’s out of the wind,” Engstrom said.

Hanson said another problem with MetraArena is moving equipment in and out of the facility.

“It’s like stuffing stuff through the neck of a bottle,” he said.

He said his staff members pride themselves on smoothly setting up MATE and breaking it down.

“It shouldn’t be easy this year,” he said. “But then, it’s not easy for the farmers this year, either.”

Hanson said sales have kept pace with previous years. He said many farmers are waiting to see what Congress does with the farm bill.

“Once the farm bill’s in place, then they say ‘OK, that’s what I can do,’” he said.

“I’ll tell you, farmers are not great savers, but they are great investors in business. If they have anything, they put it back in their business. After three or four years of drought, you have to be a gambler to stay in this business.”

John Fitzgerald can be reached at 657-1392 or at jfitzgerald@billingsgazette.com.

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