So You Wanna Go to M.A.T.S.?
I don’t think you can be in the trucking industry very long without hearing about MATS, The Mid America Trucking Show. It’s probably the most well-recognized truck show in the country and is an annual trek for many drivers. The show, held in Louisville, KY, boasts about having 1,000 vendors and 70,000 visitors. The home of MATS is the Kentucky Exposition Center with 1.2 million square feet of indoor exhibition space. It’s quite a facility and quite an event.
Given the stats stated above, attending can be a very time-consuming event if not planned properly. I found that out recently, as I had the privilege of attending MATS for the very first time. I will admit to being a bit overwhelmed at the size of the event, so I have come up with a few tips that I think might help any first-time visitors, and maybe some occasional visitors as well.
Trip Planning Isn’t Just for Driving
Probably the biggest tip would be to plan your visit. Whether you’re staying for the entire event, or just visiting for the day, planning will help you make the most of your visit. So, take some time and check out the website and events calendar to get the times for any special lectures or demonstrations you may want to attend. Schedule your visit to each of the areas of the Expo Center accordingly.
Spending all three days there would allow more flexibility. (There is free overnight parking a short distance away with a free shuttle service. There were also showers at this parking lot, located at Cardinal Stadium. Spending a full day in each Hall would allow for a more relaxed visit, and will give you more time to visit the vendors. If you’re only spending a little time there, knowing where you’re going ahead of time will save you a lot of time looking for maps and trying to figure out where you are. Trust me on this one, I spent a large amount of time just trying to get my bearings and figure out where I wanted to go. Planning ahead will save you valuable time.
As you can imagine, the traffic getting into the venue is pretty heavy in the morning. Many people stay at local hotels and drive or take an Uber/Lyft, or taxi to the Expo Center. Add these people to the folks coming in on the shuttles, and the traffic jam is quite large.
Getting your passes online will definitely save you time. Simply download or screenshot the info on your phone, and walk to the registration area where they print your attendee badge. After that, just walk in, and enjoy the show.
There is also a free concert at the close of the Friday Nights' event that is well attended. This is a no reserved seating event, so it is first-come, first seated. There are free concerts held throughout the venue all during the event, but the Friday Night show is with nationally recognized acts, so more folks attend this than the other shows during the event. This year the opening act was Truck Driver and Country Music artist, Tony Justice, and the headliner was Clay Walker. They both put on a great show and it was definitely worth the wait.
Wear Comfortable Shoes
With so much to see and limited seating, this is a no-brainer. There are some areas throughout the venue where food and beverages are available. These have limited seating, and as you can imagine, the seats are usually full. You will spend most of your time on your feet, so be prepared. Don’t forget your step-tracker, this is a good way to pad your numbers. =-)
Bring a Bag
With so many vendors competing for your attention, it’s a treasure-trove of free hats, keychains, pens, notepads, and assorted samples. The “Free Stuff Giveaway” is such a big deal that they actually have free bags at the registration areas, but some have found that this bag is not enough. I saw several people pulling wagons and suitcases, cram-packed with all types of freebies. Just remember, you can overdo it and run out of space when you get back to your truck or home.
Plan On Having Fun
With all the beautiful trucks, friendly exhibitors, musical acts, and truck drivers from all sectors of the trucking industry, a good time is all but guaranteed. But this leaves you with one more problem…
How soon is too soon to start planning for next year's M.A.T.S.?