Excitement is brewing at Tradex and Tourism Abbotsford as the laser focus for 2017 and beyond turns to mining opportunities and strategies with the City of Abbotsford, clients, tourism stakeholders, staff and management to help Abbotsford and Tradex shine its public light even brighter.

“Following on the heels of our new Tourism strategic plan, we will be embarking on a five-year plan to identify the opportunities for Tradex to evolve its positioning and its use as a multi-purpose facility. This effort will be a collaboration that includes many points of view,” said Craig Nichols, Tourism Abbotsford/Tradex executive director.

“It was a lot of fun in 2016 to pause and reflect on 25 years of Tradex operations,” said Nichols. “It reaffirmed for us that we need to be proactive and innovative in our stewardship of the building to ensure we leave it in better hands for the next generation, like those that came before us did.”

“It was good to publicly recognize the people who helped get the facility built and operational. . . and for us to express our gratitude. During these past few months we learned a lot about the history of the facility through the Tradex anniversary blogs, and about some of the amazing shows and people responsible for hosting them. It was also satisfying to communicate the importance of Tradex as a community asset and an economic generator,” said Nichols.

While 2016 marked a year of celebration and enhancements to Tradex, including a new roof, sidewalk improvements, café seating, point-of-sale system, improved entranceway, and Wi-Fi upgrade, 2017 will not be as aggressive for building improvements, “but we will see what the five-year plan identifies and develop a business case to back up the best opportunities. It will help us to get energized as a team for the future.”

As the 25th anniversary sign comes down at Tradex and a winner for the celebration’s grand prize is announced in early Spring, Nichols said he is particularly excited about the arrival of the Canadian Business Aviation Association convention at Tradex in 2017 and again in 2019, tag-teaming with the Aerospace, Defence & Security Expo (ADSE) and the Abbotsford International Airshow to bring some 20 aircraft to indoor and outdoor displays.

“It aligns strategically with the City’s and Tourism Abbotsford’s goals of becoming a go-to place for the aerospace industry,” said Nichols.

He is also excited about the national Under 14 volleyball championship in 2017 and the possible expansion of Canada Woodworking West industry-based show from 60,000 to 120,000 square feet in October.

The mayor’s breakfast in May will again give Tradex an opportunity to “transform and showcase the building,” said Nichols.

Tradex’s ability to transform into a film location during its quieter summer and winter months is another opportunity. “We’ve had some success with that recently as a site for the Legends of Tomorrow television show. We’re developing that market, it would be great to hand a film production company the Tradex keys in our quieter time and say go to it!”


Brad Styba and the management team at Tradex consider The Fraser Valley First Night, the heralding of a new year in Abbotsford, as a way of giving back to the community.

“You don’t have to break the bank to have fun,” at this event, which was launched on New Year’s Eve of 2014 with just shy of 3,000 attendees and grew to a crowd of 3,700 last year. Video coverage is here.

Number of fun-lovers promises to grow for third annual event

Styba said Tradex is expecting the number of participants to grow to between 4,500 and 5,000 for this third First Night. “We’ll cap it at 5,000 tickets,” he said. “This way there are no huge lineups for the activities.”

Before First Night was established, Styba said Tradex started to realize growth of events in December. “We had North Pole BC, large corporate dinners, a benevolent association children’s party with a midway . . . and we looked and saw what we had in the building leading up to Christmas to see if Tradex could throw a party.”

Striking a chord with locals and U.S. neighbours

From there the ideas developed for The Fraser Valley First Night, and after the first one, the response was terrific, with congratulatory calls not only from Abbotsford, but from south of the border and across the Lower Mainland.

That first year, Tradex executive director Craig Nichols was quoted in the media this way: “We had a great turnout, great response, great walk-up crowd. I think we all realize that the event struck a chord with locals.”

Considering the fact the Abbotsford News A-List has Tradex voted as the #1 place to host an event, it’s no wonder the First Night alcohol-free celebration is resonating with the community.

One ticket buys all the fun activities and entertainment

Food is extra beyond the $12 advance or $15 at-the-door single price of admission, but families will enjoy the $2 food tent featuring hotdogs, pop, popcorn and cotton candy.

Parking is free, courtesy of Fraserway RV.

Price of admission gets everyone laughing and giggling on unlimited West Coast Amusements carnival rides, ranging from Spring Ride, Tornado and Kite Flyer, to Choo Choo Charlie and Cuckoo Haus.

Back again this year is the talented Abbotsford choreographer, Mary Boonstra, teaching the crowd, in particular the children, dance steps for the big night. Boonstra was very popular when she taught steps to the theme song from Austin Powers movie.

Emcees for the night are Langley country/pop western duo sisters Robyn and Ryleigh Gillespie of Langley; with kids’ television entertainer Will Stroet belting out his toe-tapping melodies in his trademark style. Bouncy castles, crafts, rock wall, mini golf, face-painting and more will keep families busy all night.

Balloon drop, fireworks and a grand prize package

A balloon drop at 9 p.m. aligns with the stroke of midnight Eastern time, and gives families an opportunity to leave a little earlier. An outdoor fireworks show at midnight in Abbotsford marks the 2017 countdown.

Special grand prize package this year is a four-night RV rental by Fraserway RV, four nights’ campsite rental at Holiday Trails RV Resorts in Bridal Falls, $100 Walmart gift card, and $100 Shell gas gift card.


And the Tradex 25th anniversary scratch-and-win prize tickets will also be distributed during First Night.

“The best part is, even though I am working, I get to experience all the fun from start to finish,” laughed Styba, who will be at Tradex until the event winds down just after midnight. Doors open at 5 p.m.


In 2009, the Abbotsford Business Excellence Awards, co-presented by the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce and The Abbotsford News, made a decision that helped it grow into one of the largest and most spectacular events of its kind in the Fraser Valley.

It made Tradex its annual home.
“We outgrew the Ramada (now Quality Hotel) when in 2008 we had a waiting list of 100 people for a ticket to the awards night,” said Allan Asaph, now executive director of the Abbotsford Chamber, and who was with the awards program when it had a modest crowd of 200 at its debut at Tradex in 1996, and in subsequent years at the Kings Crossing banquet facility, which was destroyed by fire.

“Our hallmark is we acknowledge all nominees in our awards program, not just a select group of finalists. As a result, and with great anticipation, a lot of people want to attend. With the number of nominees each year in the range of 100, and the number of guests well exceeding 500, Tradex was able to accommodate us,” said Asaph.

The beauty of hosting the business event at Tradex is its ability to partner with other events scheduled there “that allowed us to lower the costs of pipe and drape and the cost of equipment.”

Also, Tradex continues to be a major award sponsor.

“Over the years our relationship with Tradex has allowed us to broaden the event in terms of the type of entertainment and staging. In 2014, we presented entertainment based on the Moulin Rouge movie, showcasing a wide range of local talent, from aerial acrobatics, bhangra dancers, Korean drummers, singers, actors . . . a very large contingent of performers under the guidance of talented Business Excellence committee member and choreographer Mary Boonstra,” said Asaph.

Coverage of that event can be seen here: The Business in Black dance team, comprised of community leaders taught to perform by Boonstra, continues to be an event ice-breaker since it first appeared in 2005.

Since the awards moved to Tradex, just ask Chamber of Commerce event managers like Goldie VanGarderen and now Carole Jorgensen about how Tradex works hard to increase the flexibility of the venue, so together they can create a stylish event that greets people with a setting that suits its high profile.

“Tradex ensures the quality of the food served is a significant part of the event’s success,” Asaph said.

Tradex also allows enough space for the Business Excellence pre-event reception, which Asaph said is now a major social and networking opportunity as patrons arrive on the red carpet happy and well-dressed.

“Our pleasure over the years is growing together with Tradex to host a premier event recognizing the excellence of our business community,” said Asaph. “Happy 25th anniversary Tradex!”


Heather Angeard and George Acs, co-owners of Executive Event Production Inc. and producers of the West Coast Christmas Show and Fraser Valley Food Show, both said they thought they were dreaming when they first encountered the wonderful features of Tradex nine years ago.

“Our jaws were wide open because the staff at Tradex wanted to help us. No one helps like this when we host shows in Vancouver,” said Angeard.

“I remember saying to Heather the first time we had a show at Tradex that we must be in the Twilight Zone. We are dealing with real people who want to help you in every way they can. No one has a designated job. Whoever is nearby helped us. It made a huge difference,” said Acs.

Christmas-show duo has a long history in the hospitality industry

Acs and Angeard have been business partners for decades, and together they founded and produced EAT! Vancouver Food Festival, EAT! Fraser Valley Food Festival (now Fraser Valley Food Show), West Coast Christmas Show, CityTV’s Taste of the City and produced the BC Hospitality Expo.

Angeard’s first job was with a catering company for a variety of events when she was 13. Working with Acs, who she first encountered when he was with the BC Restaurant Association, has been a rewarding experience.

Acs has been involved in the restaurant, food service and hospitality industry since leaving university in 1969. He’s been owner/operator of restaurants and bars in Victoria and Whistler, including Louie Louie’s Diner, Jimmy D’s Roadhouse and The Hungarian Village. He was named BC Restaurateur of the Year three times.

For Angeard, with more than 30 years of experience in the hospitality and event industry, it was a natural progression to create and launch consumer shows with Acs.

“When Vali Marling of Tradex came to us, telling us that they wanted to do a show similar to our Eat! Vancouver and asking for our help, we said sure. Then we did the Christmas show here as well,” said Acs.


Tradex in Abbotsford makes it easy

What does he like most about Tradex?  “It’s like a dream to move a show in and out. There are lots of big doors to access the show from all around. There are no elevators, you just drive in. It’s a wonderful facility.”

For Vancouver shows, logistics companies are hired, holding lots are rented and exhibitors are held there until they are called. None of that happens at Tradex,” said Acs.

Fancy foods, artisan market, Santa’s workshop, children’s choirs and more

The West Coast Christmas Show, considered Western Canada’s leading holiday season show, runs this year Friday through Sunday, Nov. 18-20 at Tradex. Angeard said “we get a small head-start on Wednesday, fluffing up Christmas trees and assembling reindeer. We have all day Thursday, and Friday morning to set up, before the show starts.”

The event brings together holiday gifts, fancy foods, personal services, a Festival of Trees, new décor ideas and products, festive seminars, culinary presentations, and the sounds of Christmas performed by local choirs and musicians.

Sugar shack, Nintendo and a trolley

This year a maple sugar shack outside the front doors of Tradex will bring back childhood memories for anyone from Eastern Canada, with the aroma of hot maple syrup and shredded ice . . . a sugary sweet festive delight.

A Nintendo trailer outside will also bring smiles to the faces who love anything new related to Pokémon.

And once again, parking is free, with parking-lot shuttle service provided by The Vancouver Trolley Company.

As Tradex celebrates 25 years, Angeard said the facility has certainly grown over the years and “it has been nice to be a part of it.”

Well-loved items, thousands of visitors and a stress-free venue make this show producer smile

As Leah Faulkner, show producer and manager for The Olde Farmhouse Vintage Market, starts thinking about her third show Nov. 12–13 at Tradex, she just smiles about the stresses she and her husband Tom no longer encounter.

“Tradex is a stress reliever. It’s a whole package. They take care of the event security, parking, promoting, overall cleanup and take-down. I’ve done seven markets since 2012, and comparing our old rustic venue at the Maple Ridge Albion Fairgrounds with Tradex is a difference like night and day,” said Faulkner.

“While half the vendors used to be in barns and outside in the grass, and the facility fit what we were doing in a rustic sense, the weather was not always cooperative. My husband and I used to have to clean washrooms and manage the parking, too,” Faulkner said.

“Now the show-goers get to enjoy dry shopping and the time-worn pieces are protected from the elements.”

The show moved to Tradex initially because it grew too big and had too many shoppers and vendors. The first Tradex show was in November, 2015, second was in June this year, and what’s on tap this month is her third one. Even though Faulkner is a relative newcomer to the 120,000 square foot facility, she is happy to share her experiences for Tradex’s 25th anniversary.

Faulkner’s mother-in-law from the Prairies has an especially keen eye for farmhouse-style collectibles and taught her how to finish some of her great junking and garage-sale finds.

“When Tom and I were first married, we couldn’t afford the stuff in the big stores so we went to garage sales to acquire things cheaply. Eventually every room was finished and we got to the stage where we would love to find something new and different, but we would trade-out what we already had,” Faulkner said.

“Once we came home with a trailer full of furniture after looking for treasures and we consulted with others through Craigslist to put on a market. We had 35 vendors for the first show.”

The Olde Farmhouse Vintage Market places value on things that are well-loved and that are sometimes rusted, dented, and roughed up. Vendor names are cute, like Knotty Paintbrush, Glitter and Spice, Just A Tinker and Cottage Kisses. Some 125 vendors are participating in the next Tradex show.

“It’s a dream being at Tradex,” said Faulkner. “We attract an audience of 6,000 people over the weekend. We don’t have stages, but we have vendors who sell paint and give tutorials on how to finish their projects.” Finished projects are also available.

Faulkner does not consider herself a hoarder—far from it. But there are certain items with which she just cannot part; her grandmother’s old quilt she used to wrap around herself when she was young is one of them.

A special find in her home is a pie cupboard. “I love the colour of the wood. It is rustic. It is sentimental and makes my imagination work. What little old lady cooled her special pies in this piece of furniture?”

For Faulkner, the show at Tradex also offers a message for the next generation. “We love to teach our kids we shouldn’t be a throw-away society,” she said.
And because of that, she believes her show at Tradex contributes to making the world a better place.


Valley embraces West Coast Women’s Show, Popularity soars with move to Tradex

Murat Olcay, show producer and manager for the West Coast Women’s Show, said attendance skyrocketed by 70 per cent 14 years ago when the show was moved from the Vancouver Convention Centre to Tradex.

“The people of the Fraser Valley . . . Surrey, Hope, Mission, Abbotsford, Langley and Chilliwack . . . really embraced the show,” said Olcay. “Last year alone we experienced a 15 per cent increase in attendance over the year before, and that is unheard of in these interesting times.”

He added: “This show is all about the exhibitors, and we have 400 of them. Yes, we’ve had stars coming, including recording artist and humanitarian Bif Naked, renowned interior designers, actors Josh Morrow, Sharon Case and others from The Young and the Restless. They’re great, but a small percentage of women come to the show for the celebrities, they really want the whole experience.”

The West Coast Women’s Show, Oct. 21–23 this year, has grown to become the largest and most successful women’s event in Western Canada, Olcay said. Women come to be “entertained and informed . . . we have a terrific lineup of speakers. It is a unique shopping experience. It’s relationship building with the exhibitors . . . it’s a reaching out. Our visitors like to see the booths. It’s the ultimate girls’ experience.”

The shopping fantasy includes five stages of fashion, wellness and beauty secrets, entertainment, cheese and live calendar firefighters. A second artisan marketplace, for a total of 60 artisans, was added this year because of its popularity when it was introduced in 2015.

Olcay, who is with Encore Exhibitions, has been in the show business for some 30 years. He loves Tradex because it is easy to move the show in, and move it out. “Those huge doors are a real bonus,” he said. “It’s a nice facility. Where else do you find one like that?”

Murat relies on his two adult daughters, his wife and an amazing “team of talented ladies” to get feedback on the shows and to constantly improve them.
He remembers Tradex from the days before the Abbotsford Airport passenger terminal was built and when he and others, who were running home shows at Tradex in the 1990s, were knee-deep in mud to post huge signs in farmers’ fields to point patrons toward the 120,000 square foot facility.

“Back then no one knew Tradex, but now after 25 years, they do. I’ve watched the community and area grow. I’ve appreciated the Tradex renovations, and we’re still here,” he said.

Olcay worked with Ron Price, one of the founders of Tradex when both were with Airshow Canada. “It was a lot of fun.” “We’d head out of Fort Langley in a floatplane, go to the Gulf Islands for lunch and fly back. At 59, I still don’t feel old. The trick is, like the West Coast Women’s Show teaches: Stay active, stay vital, get the most out of life.”

Education, outdoor space, ice important in hosting 2016 CanWest Horticulture Expo

Karen DeJong, show producer for the 2016 CanWest Horticulture Expo, perhaps better known as Western Canada's premiere horticulture trade show on now at Tradex, has a simple reply to how they irrigate their amazing volume of plants: "Ice, ice baby!"

After a 33-year run at the Vancouver Convention Centre, the industry-focused show brought to its patrons by the British Columbia Landscape and Nursery Association (BCLNA), is housed at Tradex for a second year.

Among the benefits of moving to Tradex, said DeJong, is that it has "allowed us to expand outside and incorporate an Equipment Demo Zone where landscapers and nursery growers can try out machines (excavators, skid steers, etc.)."

The show connects buyers and sellers throughout Canada and the Pacific Northwest.

Exclusive to green industry professionals, this two-day event typically begins a day earlier with a landscape design symposium zeroing in on issues like sustainable landscaping, colour theory, appropriate-sized flower gardens for time-pressed and aging clients, and traffic-stopping curb

DeJong said education is a big part of the show and it's a big draw. "Nearly 1,000 seats are sold in our various seminar offerings. I wish I could sit in on all of them. The hands-on sessions, like the stone wall building are a hot favourite," she said.

What is the most difficult thing to do when putting on a show like this? DeJong is quick to respond: "Managing 'move-in day' as we are working with several suppliers and contractors, all who need answers to questions . . . seemingly all at the same time. It's a hectic day, but fun."

What does DeJong enjoy most about the horticulture expo? "How quickly the show comes together with the help of a phenomenal team. And then seeing the high level of engagement between the buyers and sellers on show days," she said.

The education programs offered at the show are geared toward those who already come with advanced skill and knowledge through their education and experience in the horticulture trades, but always looking to the future, DeJong said "we hope to help our participants improve upon their skill or professional and business development through our course offerings."

Even though the show quietly slips into Abbotsford with all its economic benefits, it demonstrates how important Tradex is to shows with special requirements.

The public may spot some show patrons during the Fraser Valley Landscape Tour, which takes place the day after the formal event. At this time, participants can explore large estates to quaint country spaces in the Valley, making notes on how extensive use of garden techniques provide these properties with functional, unique outdoor living room, entertaining spaces, and personal retreats.

Recognizing Tradex is celebrating a milestone this year, DeJong offered: "Congratulations on 25 years."

Snowbird RV Show setup like putting together a giant Tradex jigsaw puzzle

Like a giant jigsaw puzzle or a game of Tetris, the latest motorhomes, truck campers, fifth-wheels and more fit perfectly into Tradex for the annual Snowbird RV Show and Sale.

How do they do it?  Brad Styba of Tradex knows the strategy. “The dealers know their space dimensions and have to fit them in, keeping in mind the requirements for aisle width and emergency exits,” he said.

And if you ask show producer Amanda Henschell or show manager Jeanette Good, they’d agree with Styba, bringing all those rigs under one roof in some 140,000 square feet of space is a well-planned exercise.

“It’s quite amazing to see the transformation,” said Henschell.

More than 50 exhibitors participate in the four-day show, including resorts, parts and service experts, accessories and propane specialists.

The event has proven to be Greater Vancouver’s largest fall recreational vehicle show drawing crowds of people year after year interested in some of the most luxurious motorhomes to the most economical tent trailers.

“The dealers offer seasonal savings at the RV shows and the one-stop shopping selection coupled with our supporting vendors and seminars makes the Snowbird RV Show a must on your to-do list,” explained Henschell.

RV travel advice, winterizing and do-it-yourself seminars consistently offer information that goes a long way in ensuring a comfortable experience in wilderness settings, well-equipped campsites or on the road with all the amenities of home.

“MTD Promotions has been running the RV shows at Tradex for more than 20 years now,” said Henschell. “We’ve partnered with Tradex since the inaugural show. This year we have six Lower Mainland dealers that offer top brands and selection . . . but we have much more than RVs, including kayaks, boats, ATVs, campgrounds, cooking and storage solutions, maintenance and performance products.”


This year’s show runs Sept. 22 – 25 and features a roving RV family of 14, the Kellogg family from Colorado, who will be sharing their extensive North American experiences on the road in a 36-foot RV.

Net proceeds from the event are donated to charity, with more than $1.3 million raised to date by both the Earlybird (held in February at Tradex) and Snowbird RV shows.

Want a taste of what guest speakers will be talking about? Check this out:
• Learn to trouble-shoot your RV plumbing and stop things like leaks, squeaks, low pressure, malfunctioning sensors and other issues.
• If you are planning a trip to a southern destination you may want to attend the Canadian Snowbird Association’s seminar on cross-border travel tips which outlines insurance needs, your rights, the number of days you are allowed out of the country and what to expect at the border.

Since it’s Tradex’s 25th anniversary, you’ll want to enjoy some of the celebratory scratch tickets available at the door. You could win soft drinks, concession items, parking passes and event tickets. A March 6, 2017 grand prize of a one-night stay at the Sandman Abbotsford Airport, breakfast for two and a $75 gift certificate to Greek Islands Restaurant will be awarded through the Tradex website.

Vereniki, prozelky, worldly deeds draw thousands to MCC Festival for World Relief

Vereniki, prozelky, worldly deeds draw thousands to MCC Festival for World Relief

Thousands of people flock to the annual Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Festival for World Relief at Tradex, not only to contribute to the organization’s response to basic human needs and world peace and justice in more than 60 countries, but to enjoy camaraderie and to savour plates of mouth-watering food.

Lineups for delicious
The lineups for vereniki can be long because the cottage-cheese filled perogies are a staple that no one can say no to and the aroma at Tradex is almost hypnotizing. One year the sale went through 25,000 vereniki, 750 pounds of farmer sausage and so many porzelky (raisin dumplings) that it took 800 pounds of flour and 400 pounds of raisins to make them.


Dora Hoeppner, relief sale coordinator, and her husband George mark their 14th year with the fundraiser this year. “It’s a great, fun event, and we have a huge attendance. It has something for all ages . . . arts and craft sales, auctions, activities just for children and of course the delicious food,” said Dora.

On Sept. 16-17 it will be the couple’s MCC auction and relief sale farewell, one that comes with sweet sadness.

MCC operates scores of relief sales across North America, and Abbotsford’s is one of the biggest and most generously supported.

When is a loaf of bread worth a quarter million dollars?
Dora said the traditional and symbolic auctioning of a loaf of bread has hit a high of $250,000 over the years from a multitude of combined bidders. An auction of handcrafted quilts also garners a lot of financial support.

The two-day event at Tradex, including fundraisers and dinners held earlier in the year, raised a record of $856,000.

“Why do I do it?  Most compelling for me and my husband is the cause, the work of MCC and the tremendous amount of relief and development around the world,” said Dora, who is happy to hand the committee work to successor Hannah Toews “who is already on staff at MCC.”

“It’s time for a fresh vision, young energy,” said Dora, adding that the Tradex staff has been phenomenal. They are helpful and go beyond the call of duty.

He saved our bacon—literally
She fondly remembers the panic one year when the MCC team started unpacking some rented chafing dishes that keep things like rice, farmer sausage and samosas hot. “We soon discovered they did not come with the required inserts. We were worried, but Bill Tavares, our event manager at Tradex came through. He got them from Tradex’s own kitchen and literally saved our bacon.”

The relief sale and auction moved to Tradex in 2002 after it outgrew the Abbotsford Agrifair grounds. The event was launched 47 years ago in Chilliwack.

This year there is a large silent auction component and many items will be packages, including ski trips and stays at bed and breakfasts.

Dora and George own a hobby farm in Chilliwack . . . “so we won’t be just sitting around in 2017. I wouldn’t want to do the festival without him,” she said.

But don’t be surprised if the tempting aromas at Tradex bring the retired couple back again next year, not to work but just for a little “sampling.”

Aerospace, Defence and Security Expo: Strong Voice at Tradex

If anyone knows about the humble beginnings of the Aerospace, Defence and Security Expo (ADSE) at Tradex, it is retired Brigadier General Dwayne Lucas.

Six years ago, a tent on the Abbotsford Airshow ramp housed networking, announcements, and local aerospace companies with a mix of dignitaries who participated in a tour of Cascade Aerospace.

It was in 2013, after some strong influencing by Lucas (founding ADSE member) and his team who wanted to see the event grow, that ADSE made its debut at Tradex, this time raising the importance of the show and featuring Western Canadian participation, the Royal Canadian Air Force, and a higher level of government involvement. It was an opportunity to show the strength of the growing B.C. aerospace industry.

Mike Mueller, new vice-president of operations and communications for AIAC Pacific (which took over responsibility of the ADSE in 2014) said the aerospace industry “is buying into what we are doing here . . . we have a pretty bright future.”

Mueller was among 150 guests celebrating Tradex’s 25th anniversary at a special outdoor luncheon on July 28 at the facility which is serving ADSE’s needs very well.

To walk into an ADSE event with its trade show with 50 exhibitors on one side of Tradex, and on the other side its 400 delegates and representatives from 29 sponsors seated listening to major industry discussions lead by key aerospace leaders and aided by super screen technology and professional lighting and staging, is truly an impressive experience.

In 2014, then-AIAC Pacific VP Jay Teichroeb said inviting the international aerospace, defence, and security companies to Abbotsford was “one way we work to make sure our B.C. aerospace companies remain world class in this competitive global marketplace. B.C. has a diverse range of companies that are proved aerospace innovators and technology leaders, and that translates to significant employment here in the Fraser Valley as well as throughout B.C. and the rest of Canada.”

Teeming with government officials, federal and provincial ministers that year at Tradex, thunderous applause could be heard there as Abbotsford MP Ed Fast, then Minister of International Trade, announced $30 million in federal funding for research and technology development to the Consortium for Aerospace Research and Innovation in Canada (CARIC), an industry-led network dedicated to aerospace innovation.

For those keen on industry news, they heard UrtheCast, a Vancouver-based technology firm developing the world’s first Ultra HD video feed of Earth, streamed from space in full colour, announce at Tradex its plans to expand its Earth Observation data stream by operating state-of-the-art sensors on the NASA segment of the International Space Station.

Chinook Helicopters also announced its MOU with China Aviation Industrial Base of Shaanxi, China to provide helicopter training services and other support to the growing commercial helicopter market there.

And Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group based in the U.K. announced the Abbotsford International Airport as the site of its North American hub for strategic growth.

Parm Sidhu, Abbotsford Airport general manager, has a keen interest in ADSE, and is particularly excited with news that the Canadian Business Aviation Association (CBAA) will be tag-teaming with ADSE and the airshow to bring some 20 aircraft for indoor and outdoor displays in 2017.

“Great things are happening in B.C.,” said Sidhu. “ADSE and now the CBAA will give aerospace an even greater voice.”

ADSE, because of its location at Tradex, is Canada’s only expo connected to a major airshow. And because of the timing, the Abbotsford International Airshow’s Friday-night twilight event is now an after-dinner treat for ADSE delegates.

Tradex built in 100 days and one Knight

Ron Price, visionary founding chairman of Airshow Canada and long-time director of the Abbotsford International Airshow, is acutely aware of how Tradex was built in 100 days.

Within one hour of leaving a final meeting with Transport Canada and then BC Pavilion Corporation (PavCo) and getting final approval to build the 120,000 square foot facility, renowned Abbotsford contractor, former fellow Abbotsford Airshow board member and family friend Les Knight called his crew waiting on-site in their bulldozers and excavators that day, and said GO!

The paint was still wet
The 1991 Airshow Canada had already signed up hundreds of exhibitors and forecasted thousands of visitors from around the world for the event, but had precious little time . . . only the 100 days left until the first day of the show “when the paint was still wet,” said Price.

“Man, he [Knight] built it. Fifty countries were at that show. It was a lot of work, a lot of fun. A lot of good people put it together with incredible cooperation from the federal, provincial and municipal governments and the world’s aviation community,” he said. “Les made it happen . . . he was a great leader in construction.”
Price said Tradex is a huge asset, hosting big shows. “It’s a gem of a facility. We’re lucky to have it.”

And so it begins
The genesis of Tradex, writes Kelly Knight (Les’ daughter) in an MSA Museum-inspired book entitled Abbotsford – From Village to City; a Commitment to Excellence and Innovation, is directly linked with the “development and success of the international aviation and aerospace tradeshow.”   The article, on page 35 of the book by Robert Martens and Anneleen van Dyck, is a compelling read.
It shows how the support from people like Expo 86 Commissioner General Patrick Reid and others who believed in inviting the world’s aviation and aerospace community (among them Airshow board members Price, Knight, Al Hurtubise, Les Kerr and Darcy Rezac) to Abbotsford, plus a $100,000 initial infusion from the Abbotsford International Airshow, finally resulted in the need for a permanent exhibition structure in 1991. The first time Airshow Canada was held in Abbotsford in 1989, it was accommodated within two temporary 80,000 square foot white tents on the site.

From Airshow Canada to ADSE
Airshow Canada was a spectacle indeed. “It legitimized the show in terms of business and aerospace when we in Abbotsford were known more for being Top Gun,” said Kelly.
“Airshow Canada 1991 was successfully opened in Tradex with a Canadian Forces CF18 dual flyby. It featured 500 exhibitors and welcomed 12,000 visitors with professional interests from more than 50 countries. Continuing with the international aviation presence, there were SU27s, IL76 Candids, a Mig31 Foxhound, KA32 Helix helicopter (all Russian), and a Romanian Yak55 aerobatic plane at Airshow Canada,” said Kelly.
The final Airshow Canada was held at Tradex in 1997, but other shows focusing on aviation and defence have evolved at Tradex. (Be sure to read our next Tales from Tradex blog post featuring ADSE (Aerospace, Defence and Security Expo).
Mark Rushton, former Abbotsford International Airshow director from 1982 to 1998 and long-time editor of The Abbotsford News, recalls the special efforts of Ron Price in the glory years of Airshow Canada and Tradex. “He was a great personality, a family man dedicated to Airshow Canada. He and Les Knight certainly contributed significantly to tourism, aviation, and the community.”

A few laughs along the way
Former Tradex director of operations Vali Marling, now manager of Anvil Centre in New Westminster, recalled some of the funnier stories related to Tradex and the Airshow.
“When the jets flew over the building it would shake. When the big U.S. planes would fly over us as we sat in our offices, dog hair [resulting from the dog and pet shows] would sometimes fall from the ceiling vents.”
And then there was the time Marling organized the mud-spattered sod-turning for Tradex, when it was pouring rain and the guests were dressed formally.
A sense of humour went a long way in those early days of Tradex.



Tradex in Abbotsford is a living, breathing space.  Just watch it.  Show after show, event after event, Tradex inhales the wares, displays, and people, takes a short break so its patrons can savour the moment, then exhales so it can begin its next breath.

Since its birth on July 28, 1991, the Fraser Valley Trade and Exhibition Centre (Tradex) has created a kaleidoscope of memories for those who have walked through its doors. Add to that the millions of dollars of economic development impact it has on the City of Abbotsford and the region and you can begin to understand its role in helping Abbotsford become the Hub of the Fraser Valley.

Tradex turns 25 later this month, and Tourism Abbotsford/Tradex executive director Craig Nichols is planning to mark the occasion with a get-together of special guests. In addition, you’ll find a series of bi-monthly blog posts on the facility’s website that will capture the priceless stories that cause key show organizers to crack a smile.


Its 120,000 square foot H-frame, with a base that was one of the largest concrete pours in the region at the time, has been home to the stars of the film American Graffiti (Candy Clark, Paul Le Mat, Bo Hopkins), Jerry Mathers aka Theodore The Beaver Cleaver, HGTV’s affable handyman Mike Holmes, and of course Henry Winkler, The Fonz from Happy Days.


Brad Styba, who was there as a contractor for Tradex from the day its huge hangar-like doors rolled open, is full of stories.  He has seen the great personalities like Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull, Eddy Shack, and others who gathered at the facility for the impressive Hockey Tour 92.

Styba has dealt with locals rehearsing for the Business in Black dance team, watched Overhaulin’s Chip Foose share his hotrod stories. and bumped into actors from The Young and the Restless and members from of The Real Housewives of Vancouver. He witnessed bears, eagles, hawks and even electronic dinosaurs grace his stage as his two-way staff communicator crackled.

Graham Kerr the famed Galloping Gourmet chef and the 1960s dynamic duo’s Batmobile (visiting with its creator George Barris at the BC Classic & Custom Car Show) have also been “in the house.”

Styba is now managing director, business development at Tradex. For the last six years he has been an employee of Tourism Abbotsford.


He and Nichols (who has been with Tradex for two years since he arrived from his position as Flyover Canada general manager) are keen to share the amazing recycling efforts of Tradex, its rainwater collection system, the power-saving lighting upgrades, its culinary team lead by Chef Michel Gagnon, the incredible staff, and the shows that attract some 350,000 people each year.

Styba fondly reflects on the first Fraser Valley Boat and Sportsmen’s Show at Tradex, when they had no overflow parking and had to redirect 1,000 cars onto the Abbotsford International Airport apron. He has seen Tradex, the second-largest facility of its kind in B.C., dressed as the North Pole, a nursery, a wedding reception hall for 2,500, a high-brow awards venue, a volleyball centre, an educational facility, a business and sports card showcase, and among other things, a celebratory place to bring in a new year.

There is so much to tell — too much for one blog post — so we’ll be back with more tales from Tradex.


To celebrate the 25th anniversary, Tradex is inviting several friends, partners and suppliers to enjoy food prepared by Chef Michel Gagnon and his team. The celebration includes speeches and a cameo by former Tourism Abbotsford executive director Dan Stefanson. Lisa Adrianne Witt will perform on the piano.

“In addition to providing enormous economic benefits for the community, Tradex has acted as a gathering place for the past 25 years,” said Nichols. “We’re looking forward to sharing some of the stories that have played out here during this time.”

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