Saturday has historically been the busiest day at the Denver Golf Expo. Attendance that day often goes a long way toward determining how successful the three-day winter golf gathering will be.
This past Saturday, snow and bitter cold moved through the Denver metro area, which didn't do the Expo any favors.
The result was an average attendance total by recent standards, rather than a number surpassing 10,000, like organizers had wanted.
The three-day show that ran Friday through Sunday drew 8,781 people to the Denver Mart. That's down 3.9 percent from last year, but slightly surpasses the show's five-year average from 2013-17 (8,744).
"I'm OK" with the total, said Mark Cramer, who along with his wife Lynn Cramer have owned and operated the Denver Golf Expo for the last 18 years. "I wanted more for exhibitors and for the industry. That's all that about expectations. I set goals and expectations, and I want to meet those goals and expectations. But we had a hell of a storm and 15-degree weather. I know the weather hurt us. I can't control that. The golf industry totally understands that. They're a weather-dependent industry. They don't have control of the weather at their golf courses. And I don't have control of the weather during the Expo."
A total of 3,142 people showed up on Saturday, a day when the number has reached 4,500 in the recent past.
The 8,781 total for the show was behind that of 2017 (9,136), but ahead of 2015 (7,195) and 2016 (8,130).
The record total for the show came in 2008, at 11,202. The Expo hit five figures four times from 2008-12, but hasn't reached that milestone since.
While overall attendance dipped somewhat this year, other numbers were up. For instance, exhibitors jumped from 112 in 2017 to 131 this year. And the number of free 10-minute lessons Colorado PGA professionals provided went up from 306 last year to 344 over the weekend.
Meanwhile, the CGA's two-day Rules of Golf Workshop, which returned to the Expo in 2017 after being away from the show for six years, sold out in advance for the second straight winter. This time, about 150 people attended. The CGA also conducted seminars at the Expo on USGA Tournament Management and GHIN certification.
"We were away from (the Expo for the Rules Workshop) for years," said Ed Mate, executive director of the CGA. "Using this landmark date to do education (seminars and workshops) just makes sense."
Also at the show, there was an area overseen by the Junior Golf Alliance of Colorado where kids could hit birdie balls and play games of putt-putt, and The First Tee of Denver ran a pitching area. The Colorado PGA organized a variety of seminars over the three days. And, with the Denver Golf Expo celebrating its 25th "birthday", organizers periodically noted over the intercom things in golf that had taken place a quarter-century ago.
Walking through the show, Mark Cramer was struck by one thing this past weekend.
"One cool thing that I noticed was the diversity in ages, sex, race ... I've never seen it this great. It was awesome," he said.
As for the amount of business conducted at the show, "All the exhibitors I talked to did the same as last year or better," Cramer said. "There were very few that were down. Almost all were telling me that it was up."
Indeed, the attendance numbers didn't lag for lack of advertising or marketing. There were local TV ads that aired during PGA Tour events, radio spots, an advertising supplement that ran in the Denver Post, and an ongoing presence on social media. Radio outlet 104.3 The Fan broadcast periodically at the show. "We knocked it out of park with promotion and advertising," Cramer said.
Looking forward, there are some things the Cramers are looking to tweak.
One such item is the floor plan. Mark Cramer said he might return to the plan the show had several years ago and for roughly a decade before that.
"I want to have a different sense or feel when people come in," Cramer noted. "I want them coming in and saying, 'This is new.' If you have all the exhibitors in the same booth spaces, some people just go to their favorites (and skip a lot of other areas). If we mix it up, people have to go through the whole thing and they have a different experience."
Cramer said another priority is to beef up the show's sponsorship.
"If we can get more money in, we can spend more with the production, advertising (and) make it easier for the exhibitors to exhibit," he said. "Lynn and I have to get this part of the show working better."
And, depending on how things play out in the interim, Cramer is considering the viability of bringing back the Used Club Sale, a longtime fixture at the show that has been absent the last two years.
"That's one of my goals, but I've got to see if there's a market," he said.