Roaming the streets of the Farm Progress Show, visitors may catch a glimpse of extreme intensity on the face of Matt Jungmann, Penton Agriculture show director. From exhibitor locations to field demo planning, Jungmann has been at the heart of every decision.
On Tuesday and Wednesday of the show that hardened game face is firmly in place. The coordination of each puzzle piece is not taken lightly. Smiles are short-lived, made more out of concession than happiness.
On Thursday, the show's final day, Jungmann's expression morphs into that of a coach coasting through the last few minutes of a Super Bowl victory. A smile of relief is a frequent visitor as another show goes in the history books.
Speaking of records, this is Jungmann's 20th year of coordinating shows and events for the Farm Progress brand. His career started in 1995 when he was hired out of college as the assistant manager of the Farm Progress Show. That year the show was held in Terre Haute, Ind.
Jungmann was promoted to show manager in 1998. Two years later, he left the shows business to work a few years in the advertising side of the business.
"It was good to see that side of the business," Jungmann notes. "I got to work with many of our partners in a different capacity. It allowed me to get to know their business on a level other than planning for a show."
In 2004, he was thrust back into the shows world when he accepted the position of national shows manager, which put him in charge of all Farm Progress events – Husker Harvest Days, Hay Expo, New York Farm Show and the Farm Progress Show.
Throughout the years, Jungmann has made numerous friends working in the shows business. He's travelled to Germany, Australia and New Zealand to take notes on other farm shows. He's met presidents and worked with the U.S. Secret Service.
Yet, the most important connection he's made during his work came in 2000. Working in sales at the time, a young assistant show manager, Krystal Campbell, caught Jungmann's full attention at the Farm Progress Show in Cantrall, Ill. In 2001, the two were engaged. In 2002, they married.
Jungmann still remembers one of the most stressful times in his life came on Sept. 11, 2001. He was supposed to catch a flight out of Chicago to meet up with Krystal in Tunica, Miss. for a southern farm show.
"I remember walking up to the Southwest desk to check the status of my flight," he says. "The second plane had hit; and I wanted to be with her. Walking up there, every phone lit up at the same time. They told me every flight in the U.S. had just been grounded. I was stuck in Midway and my fiancé was in Tunica."
He and Keith Ryan, then-manager of the Farm Progress Show, jumped in Ryan's truck and made the 570-mile drive that night. They arrived very late, but it was worth it, he says.
Matt and Krystal have three children: Jack, Luke and Kate.
During his years in show management, Jungmann has seen a lot of changes. One of the biggest was prompted in 2003 – the 50th anniversary of the Farm Progress Show.
That year, it rained a lot. Two days of the three days were cancelled. "The exhibitors said, we need to stop going from corn field to corn field," Jungmann remembers.
In those days, the show moved from farm to farm across the Midwest. Without permanent roads, the slightest rain event would turn the grounds into a muddy mess.
In 2005, Farm Progress hosted the first show at a permanent site in Decatur, Ill. The first show at the permanent site in Boone, Iowa was held in 2008.
The change to permanent sites allowed exhibitors to invest more time and money into their show presence. Jungmann says this led to the second big change he's seen over the years.
"Exhibitors used to put up a tent and pull equipment onto the lot," he says. "Now, the exhibitors have become much more engaging with visitors. In fact, a good majority wait until the Farm Progress Show to unveil new products. The permanent sites have led to a more intense focus in the last 10 years."
And yet, one of the great things about the Farm Progress Show is that old mantra of pulling a piece of equipment onto a grass lot is still successful. Each year, numerous entrepreneurial folks are able to create a buzz with a revolutionary idea on the show site.
Finally, though he's at the center of all decisions, Jungmann gives the real credit to the show's success to everyone working the show. His team of show staff, who wear the blue FPS caps, are the backbone of the show, he notes. Along with them, every landscaper, police officer, electrician, EMS worker, volunteer and exhibitor deserve credit for making the show tick, Jungmann says.