Baltimore Unrest Shuffles Convention Center Calendar

HIL ANDERSON, SENIOR EDITOR
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Baltimore, MD – Civil unrest in the streets of Baltimore resulted in the cancellation of at least two exhibitions at the city’s convention center.

The Door and Hardware Institute (DHI) cancelled its April 29-May 1 CoNEXTions 2015, and the May 1-3 Its Time 2015, a women’s leadership conference, was cancelled by the Its Time Network. No new dates for the events were announced.

One event that stuck to its schedule was the April 28-30 Food Safety Summit, which opened on time and featured a relaxing evening welcome reception on the Baltimore Convention Center’s deck. “When I saw the participation and support our attendees demonstrated at the opening session, I knew we had made the right call,” said Scott Wolters, director trade shows and conferences for BNP Media Events.

J. Spargo & Associates was still exploring new dates for the May 5-7 Defense Cyber Operations Symposium. The association that owns the event, the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA), decided to postpone the conference in the interest of the safety of its participants. “We are exploring dates from mid-June to mid-July in Baltimore,” J. Spargo said in a notice sent to attendees on April 29. “Our mission partners remain strongly supportive of this event. We appreciate your patience as we determine and publish further details and apologize for any inconvenience.”

James Spargo, senior vice president of J. Spargo, told Trade Show Executive that a large number of the conference’s participants were based in the nearby Washington, DC area, so the need to change air travel and hotel plans was not a major factor in setting a new date.

The turmoil in the convention center calendar occurred after protests over the death of Freddy Gray while he was in Baltimore police custody, turned violent. Unruly crowds roamed the area around the convention center, causing damage to some businesses and nationally televised confrontations with riot police. The incidents prompted officials to call out the National Guard, close schools, and institute a night time curfew. The Baltimore Orioles cancelled two games and then played the game at Oriole  Park at Camden Yards that was closed to the public.

As for the event industry, the cancellations and postponements at the convention center were made with an abundance of caution and after consultations among show managers, association boards and city officials, organizers said.

“The city was exceptional throughout this process,” said a statement from the DHI. The association, headquartered in neighboring Virginia, added: “There are significant financial ramifications from this decision, which were discussed at length before this decision was made. The impact goes well beyond DHI and our exhibitors and attendees, to include service providers, speakers and the local economy.”

Wolters said BNP huddled with the event’s exhibitors and advisory board and came to the conclusion that the convention center was secure and that the show could go on. “Things remain calm in the area where the summit is taking place and there have been no credible threats as most of the unrest has been well north of the convention center,” he said.

Reach Scott Wolters at (847) 405-4030 or wolterss@bnpmedia.com; James Spargo at (703) 631-6200 or james.spargo@jspargo.com; Julie Walter, DHI director of events, at (703) 766-7036 or jwalter@dhi.org; Peggy Daidakis, general manager, Baltimore Convention Center, at (410) 649-7111 or pdaidakis@bccenter.org