Why is everyone in such a good mood? That was a core thought I kept having at the very first preparedness expo I attended. It was October 2016, and it turned out it was the very last one that those organizers put together in Portland, Oregon. I think I was particularly stoked because my wife and I turned it into a fun little two-night jaunt just three hours away. I had finally jumped into preparedness as a lifestyle a good four-and-a-half years earlier. But her… Let’s just say it took a few of those years to get her onboard. But she was finally taking preparedness seriously, and like me, she looked forward to the various lectures, demonstrations, and booths to check out. In her mind, we finally found a hobby-type show to attend that we both liked. In my mind, winning over my spouse was a major milestone in being prepared. As many of us know, those whose non-prepping spouse thinks the prepper in their life has taken a long walk on a short pier have it tough.
What I’ve deduced about my opening thought can most accurately be described with one word: Tribe. I’d like to think that in the last three years, the average citizen has learned about supply chain disruptions, “deadly pandemics,” and a host of other issues that can affect the toilet paper supply <Ahem>. Of course, I have actually met random people—just as you have—and the thought that all of them possess common sense does not even begin to fester in my mind. People are idiots. And lazy. And prepping takes smarts and effort. So those of us who “get into it” become ecstatic when we find each other. You might be shopping the camping goods aisle at your local outdoor store. You and someone you’ve never met lock eyes as each of you try to grab the last water filter hanging on the hook. “Go ahead,” you say cooly.
“Naw, it’s alright,” he replies. “We have several at home.”
So do we, you think. HUZZAH! you internalize excitedly as you scan your aisle-mate. Cargo pants… paracord bracelet… and is that a concealed carry bulge on his 3 O’Clock? You’ve just instantly started filtering this person. Alright, if an active shooter enters the store, he and I already know not to shoot each other. That’s tribe. And you’re surrounded by it at a prep expo.
Why go to them? Of course, shopping for stuff is always cool. But the real value is in talking and listening. You get to meet experts in home infrastructure, food preservation, or medical and survival skills. You get to talk to authors and sit in classes. Want to know how to start a sourdough? Or get into hydroponics? Or skin a rabbit? Or install an old school hand pump on you well? Those are the types of things you can learn at expos.
The next one we attended was a full two years later in Bonner County, Idaho. Now called the Panhandle Preparedness Expo, it is the stable and consistent show in the NW states. Not a huge venue, they still pack in almost sixty vendors. That year, 2018, was the last time I attended one as only a patron. I’d already met author Glen Tate a couple of times at that point, but it was then at that show, listening to he and his (future) wife Shelby Gallagher introduce the Prepping 2.0 concept that I decided I was done dragging my feet on being an author. The following spring, I was a small part of a hard-working team (including Glen and Shelby) to organize a show in my local city of Bremerton. However much work you think it is, it is triple that figure. [Note: we tried our best to have one in 2020. We just couldn’t get vendors to commit, and that was in January. So we can’t blame the ‘demic for the show’s demise.]
The one year we have missed the Idaho show was 2020, due to a wedding. But we go every year, and my preparedness themed fiction books sell very well there. For the last two years, author Millie Copper has been at that show as well. It is her example that has me seriously pursing a non-fiction book to write next year. I’ve worked three shows with her, and her non-fiction books on food preserving and preparation sell like life preservers on the Titanic.
This year, we and Millie were invited to be part of the post-apocalyptic author corner at a show in Colorado by our friend and fellow author DJ Cooper. She is a co-owner of the Self Reliance & Simple Life Project. [Note: that show travels. We worked the Colorado show at the end of April. She has had the show in Tennessee, and I think Texas is in the works. Check out her website!]
Where do you find the shows? I’ve discovered a good way to keep an eye on potential prepper shows is the website preppershowsusa.com. It isn’t an absolute, but I think most shows have figured out to pay the small fee and get their show featured on the site.
I’ll end with a few questions, and I look forward to your replies and emails. What shows do you attend? How many a year do you go to? Or have you never even been to one? And what is the one thing you would most like to learn or purchase at one?
Remember: Our Duty is to Be Ready…