The nation’s largest model train shows announced cancellations this week, some for dates as far away as early 2021.
World’s Greatest Hobby on Tour and Trainfest, which account for about five of the most widely attended model railroad shows each fall and winter, canceled upcoming dates out of concern for covid-19. The cancellations follow suit with many smaller regional shows that have steadily dropped off since early March.
Train Show, Inc., issued an exhibitor update Friday announcing that WGH on Tour was being sidelined until 2022. The four or five winter shows that rotate major metropolitan areas are typically hosted from January to early March. The 2021 slate had not been announced.
“The Covid-19 health crisis has created an exceedingly difficult situation for event promoters,” the company said in a statement. “Most government jurisdictions and venues are not allowing large gatherings, hence most sporting events, concerts and trade shows have been cancelled. Given that our shows consistently have attendance in the 15,000 to 30,000 range, we are subject to some of the most severe restrictions.”
Because the shows require large venues and typically attract 20,000-plus, Train Show, Inc., has had difficulty securing venues because safety requirements for large indoor gatherings are unknown. Even when large events are permitted, hosting the shows may not be worth the risk, the company said.
WGH on Tour shows invest heavily in promotion to attract rail enthusiasts and families and usually begin marketing dates in the summer. Making those commitments while fearing a last-minute cancellation would be financially troubling, the company said.
“No one is sure whether or not there will be another wave of covid-19 in the winter and if or when a vaccine or successful treatment will be available,” the statement read. “The risk of having to cancel a WGH show on short notice due to an outbreak would be a significant financial impact, as we spend $50,000 to $100,000 on advertising which would be totally wasted, and event cancellation insurance is no longer available.”
Last year, WGH on Tour visited Columbus, OH; Chantilly, VA; Hampton, VA; and St. Paul, MN. While attendance figures have not been released for the full 2020 circuit, the Chantilly show attracted more than 31,000, according to Train Show, Inc. Shows at eight venues from 2018-19 averaged nearly 23,000.
Train Show, Inc., which hosts other shows, is resuming its Greenberg’s Great Train & Toy and Great Train shows in July and August. The Greenberg’s train show is July 25-26 in Monroe, PA.
WGH on Tour’s cancellation came a day after Trainfest, touted as the country’s largest operating model railroad show, reluctantly pulled the plug on its November date at Wisconsin State Fair Park in Milwaukee.
The uncertain status of the State Fair Expo Building, which normally hosts the show and has been dedicated to overflow covid-19 treatment, forced organizers to make the call.
“Given the current pandemic situation and obstacles posed by covid-19, including the state’s uncertainty as to when the current ‘hospital setup’ will be removed from the State Fair Expo Building, the Trainfest team reluctantly decided to cancel what would have been the 49th Annual Trainfest event,” the show said on its website.
In an email to vendors and exhibitors, co-chairs Mike Slater and Dennis Janssen said the committee didn’t take making the decision lightly. The decision was made “out of concern not only for the welfare of our at-risk members, but also because of financial liability which might result if we delay the decision any further.”
A virtual show in 2020 “may be in the works.” Slater and Janssen asked vendors and exhibitors for feedback on participating in such an event.