As MANTS enters its 50th year of operation, Nursery Management magazine talked to some of the original exhibitors of the show. Star Roses and Plants, which was founded more than 75 years ago, has been with MANTS since the very beginning, and traveling to the show is a top priority for the company every year. Bradd Yoder, president of Star Roses, took a trip down memory lane and reminisced about the monumental impact the show has had over the years.

“It's so ingrained in what we do that we never even think about not coming back. It's always a great show for us,” Bradd says.

He has been with Star Roses for 26 years, but he attended four MANTS shows prior to that, when he worked for the Henry F. Michell Company. According to Bradd, the show is a great place to network while booking orders at the same time and allows them to be incredibly efficient.

“For our core business of nursery growers, there's not a better show. I mean, it is the show to be at. And that just keeps everybody coming back, in my opinion,” he says.

Another reason he considers the show so successful is because Star Roses is located just a little over an hour away, and it’s a convenient location for other vendors as well. He notes that Star Roses can bring many employees to the show at very little expense. The advantage gives Star Roses a one-up on the competition, since employees who can’t be flown out to other shows still get to experience MANTS in just a relatively short drive. It’s especially helpful for the younger people, since they are exposed to a larger part of the industry.

“They can see a lot more, and they get to meet a lot more people,” he says. “So that's been a real plus for us over the years.”

Bradd also commends the timing of the show, and attributes it as one of the many keys to MANTS’ longstanding success.

“I think it's at a great time of the year and almost everybody's upbeat and ready to get going for spring, he says.

He’s quick to point out that the MANTS staff is incredibly helpful during the setup process.

“We've always been able to pick up the phone and say 'Hey, we've got this little problem, is there anything you can help us with?' and over the years, that's been a great relationship,” he says.

Since attending his first show 30 years ago, Bradd regards the sheer expansion of the show as one of the biggest changes.

“I remember when it was only one hall and then it went to two, and I can't remember what it's up to now, but we joke sometimes that we feel bad for some of the customers because it's so big and so many important people are there. How do you get through it in two and a half days?”

Along with the size, he explains how the vendors have changed as the show expanded.

“I remember the first shows being plant-based, nursery-based. Now for somebody walking the show, you can see anything from a 4-inch caliper tree over to a blow-up thing for Christmas and everything in between,” he says.

Another thing that has changed is the time of week the show occurred. In the early days, MANTS used to rotate throughout the week, which meant it sometimes coincided with the NFL playoff championship game.

“If it was ever on a Sunday, nobody was on the floor. It was only vendors. And those vendors tried to find a TV in the area so they could watch the game as well,” he says. “So, when they changed it to be only during the week, that was a huge, huge advantage and it was a good thing.”

In all the chaos and networking, Bradd shares some of the memories that have stood out to him the most. In particular, he recalls that during the 50th anniversary of the Peace Rose, Star Roses wanted to serve wine and cheese in the booth because the Peace Rose came from a French breeder.

“I remember that broke all these rules,” he says, laughing. “Because you're not allowed to serve alcohol, and you're really not allowed to really serve food, if I remember right.”

Luckily, they were able to work through those rules and Star Roses ended up serving attendees wine and cheese. Bradd says he learned a very valuable lesson that day: “If you ever want to have people in your booth, all you have to do is give them food and alcohol, because we had more people in our booth and the longest lines I'd ever seen.”

Brad is grateful for all the experiences and networking opportunities the show has provided over the years.

“We consider it something we wouldn't even think of missing — we consider them a partner in our business. We're very glad we were one of the original exhibitors,” he reflects. “We're really excited about the future.”