Emerald successfully trades first live event since the onset of COVID-19

Show delivers safety-first event, sets stage for January 2021 edition of Surf Expo in Orlando

NEW YORK, NY. (November 24, 2020) – Emerald, owner of the International Gift Expo of the Smokies (IGES), today celebrated a key milestone for the organization and the expositions industry as a whole.  IGES, the most comprehensive souvenir, resort, and specialty gift trade show in the U.S., successfully and safely reunited brands, wholesalers, and buyers on November 4-7, 2020, at the LeConte Center in Pigeon Forge, TN.

Given current market conditions, and in line with pre-market predictions, the number of exhibiting companies declined 60%, though buyer attendance was down only 30%, creating a 75% boost year-over-year in the overall attendee-to-exhibitor ratio, from 7 attendees per exhibitor to 12 attendees per exhibitor. As a result, sentiment scores from exhibiting customers improved across all measures, and confirmed the demand from the gift and souvenir community to connect face-to-face to source new products, replenish inventories, and prepare for the important upcoming holiday season. 

“Successfully trading IGES this year is a testament to supporting our commitment to our communities, and a positive first step forward for our industry as a whole,” said Lori Silva, EVP of Emerald’s Retail Group. “Producing a safe and secure environment at IGES was our top priority, and we are extremely proud of the IGES team and our amazing partners for implementing a stringent health and safety plan that delivered a strong, productive show that demonstrated the power of our industry to forge ahead and overcome challenges.”

Customers at the show echoed that sentiment, “Given the uncertainty we have all been facing much of this year, attending the IGES show in November was critical to the future success of our business,” said Don Henk, Retail Operations Manager, Massanutten Resort. “IGES helped us maximize the sales and profitability of all our shops by allowing us to connect with our key vendors. There is nothing like seeing the new items, designs, and colors in person. Not to mention talking with new vendors to see what they have to offer, which goes well beyond just products in a catalog.”

Emerald, in strategic alliance with general contractor and partner, Shepard, helped set the standard on how live business-to-business events will be produced in the future.  This same standard will next be implemented for the Surf Expo show, which is scheduled to take place January 6-8, 2021 at the Orange County Convention Center, Orlando, FL. 

“It was exciting to see our team successfully stage another safe event as we emerge from the most challenging time in our industry’s history. We are committed to working with client partners, like Emerald, to ensure we are a leader in the evolution of events and at the forefront of maintaining the new standards for health and safety that will be critical in attracting participants back to in-person events,” said Steve Basch, CEO, Shepard

Creating a safe and secure environment was a top priority for IGES show management and partners.  Prior to the event, Emerald’s Preparedness, Prevention & Response Plan and IGES’s health and safety protocols were communicated to attendees and exhibitors via a Welcome Packet where they acknowledged and accepted IGES’s Terms and Conditions.

Onsite, the team and Shepard worked closely with the City of Pigeon Forge as well as the event’s hotel partners and the LeConte Center to assure strict adherence to every health and safety standard. Examples of the safety measures implemented at IGES included temperature screening, the required use of face masks at all times, registration queue lines to ensure 6-foot social distancing, one-way entrances/exits, transparent shields at all concession stands, and daily disinfection of all seating, restrooms, and frequently touched public areas. 

These pre- and onsite measures will again be implemented at the January 2021 edition of Surf Expo with the goal of providing assurance and confidence around the safe reopening of Surf, and all Emerald produced events, while placing the highest priority on the well-being of Emerald’s customers, staff and communities. 

For more information please visit the event websites; International Gift Expo of the Smokies, and Surf Expo at


About Emerald

Emerald is a leader in building dynamic, market-driven business-to-business platforms that integrate live events with a broad array of industry insights, digital tools, and data-focused solutions to create uniquely rich experiences. As true partners, we at Emerald strive to build our customers’ businesses by creating opportunities that inspire, amaze, and deliver breakthrough results. With over 140 events each year, our teams are creators and connectors who are thoroughly immersed in the industries we serve and committed to supporting the communities in which we operate.  For more information, please visit

About Shepard

Shepard is a full-service event production company serving exhibitions, events, and exhibits. We work with events to create meaningful experiences that connect the right audiences and bring bold visions to life. With teams that specialize in everything from strategy, design and audio-visual technology to production and entertainment, we ensure every event goes beyond the expected. For more information, please visit

Emerald Media Contact:

Beth Cowperthwaite, VP, Communications, (203) 606-6243

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