At present time, it is about one month away from the 2020 BLADE Show, which takes place August 7th-9th at the Cobb Galleria Centre in Marietta, GA. It is the annual gathering of knife enthusiasts from all over the globe. It is the official reunion of this one big knife family that we are a part of. If you’ve never been to the BLADE Show before, you are in for a real treat. You have NO idea what you are heading into. The show is such a visceral experience as it’s one full weekend of nothing but wall to wall knives and knife people. Prepare for sensory overload! There’s a bunch of opportunities throughout the show weekend to not only browse and purchase knives but to also meet a ton of new folks and to have opportunities to learn more about knifemaking, the knife industry, knife care, and so on. You can view more information about the show by visiting the official BLADE Show website located at http://www.bladeshow.com. Just look at the opportunities available all weekend long! Are you getting excited yet? You should be if you are going to the show and have a pulse! The show is very exciting but it also can be overwhelming to newbies as there’s so much to do and see that you want to take it all in. As a veteran of 20 years worth of BLADE Show events, I am here to say that it is nearly impossible to take in everything that you want to. So, careful pre-show planning is in order to maximize your time and experience while at the show. A little work beforehand means big dividends for you on the weekend of the show. Hopefully by now, if you are planning to attend the show you have made your hotel reservations already. If not...well, I hate to say that you might be out of luck. Hotels in the immediate area sell out. Add to that, SunTrust Stadium - the home of the Atlanta Braves - is right across from the Cobb Galleria and the show host hotel - Renaissance Waverly. Normally you would be competing with Braves fans in the event there maybe home games during the show weekend but I believe MLB has been suspended this year due to COVID-19. So that eliminates that worry.
Spartan Blades BLADE Show booth circa 2012
First, visit the BLADE Show website (http://www.bladeshow.com) to peruse the Exhibitor listing to get an idea of who all will be going to the show. Look up any custom knifemakers that you wish to see as well as any production companies and retailers as well. Make a list of those you definitely would like to visit. Be sure to check out the demo schedule as well as the BLADE University schedule to see the available classes (fee based admission). If you wish to attend any BLADE U classes, further instructions are on the site on how to officially sign up. You want to have a plan for each day that you will be spending at the show. Sometimes plans get altered and that’s all right. Just go with the flow. The main days of the show will be Friday August 7th and Saturday August 8th. Traditionally, the Friday and Saturday of BLADE Show weekend usually are the busiest and most crowded. Sunday, the attendance drops off as folks who have to return to their jobs on Monday, will be leaving to return home. If you are lucky enough to stay through Sunday, sometimes retailers exhibiting there MAY offer knives and accessories at a discount, in hopes to generate last-minute sales as well as reduce the amount of inventory they have to pack up and bring back with them. If you are a bargain hunter and are staying through Sunday, it might pay off to browse the show and ask nicely if retailers can discount more.
This is a LARGE show. And you WILL be on your feet a lot and doing a ton of walking so it is imperative that you come prepared with a good pair of comfortable shoes. And dress comfortably as well. You might want to carry a backpack with some show survival essentials like a bottle (or bottles) of water, and maybe some snacks like trail mix. Again, there will be a lot of walking and on-your-feet, as booths will not have accommodations for you to sit. I cannot stress how important it is to have a comfortable pair of shoes. The show is split up into two sections. The main part of the show in the main exhibit hall then there’s the ballroom just a short distance walk away from the exhibit hall that will also be filled. In the main hall, the production companies (most of them) will be around the perimeter and some in the middle. Custom makers are generally grouped by guilds (if they are members of such). There will be show programs available for free at the entrance to the show, I suggest you grab one and not lose it. You can see who is where as well as circle or highlight the tables/booths that you wish to visit. This show program is an indispensable tool to have with you.
William W. Harsey Jr. engraving a knife with his signature for Tu Lam of Ronin Tactics
There will be plenty of restaurants in the area, all up and down Cobb Parkway there in Marietta and within just a few miles either way of the show. If you are open to eating on the cheap, the Cumberland Mall across the way from Cobb Galleria Centre has a food court that has a good variety of take-out places. There also are restaurants there at the mall such as Ted’s Montana Grill and The Cheesecake Factory. Though not as inexpensive as the food court, they do have some options. Sometimes, battling Atlanta traffic after a full day at the show can be tiring and you may not feel like doing so. Consider making use of the restaurants or food court of the Cumberland Mall.
After the show closes each day, that means the fun has ended for that day. WRONG! Actually, the fun is just beginning! Why do I say this? There’s the popular BLADE Show after-hours hang-out affectionately dubbed “The Pit”. It’s the sunken bar inside the huge open air atrium of the Renaissance Waverly hotel. Knife enthusiasts, knifemakers, and industry officials all hang out at The Pit until the wee hours of the next morning, socializing and in general just having a great time! The Pit is as much a part of the total BLADE Show experience as the show itself. You might not be able to catch up with your friends during the day or get to meet certain knifemakers inside the show. Chances are good that you will run into such folks at The Pit. By about 9pm or 10pm at night, The Pit is just a sea of knife humanity. Get down there, circulate, see someone you recognize from the internet or knife magazines - just go up to them and introduce yourself. The Pit also spills out into the outdoors, as the unofficial “smoking section” hangs out outside the main entrance of the Renaissance Waverly. More knife people are out there as well. So if you are trying to catch up to someone and they smoke...and you don’t find them inside, be sure to check outside! Relax, have fun, and socialize. A lot of these people you meet year after year at BLADE, you might email them, text them, talk to them on the phone, chat on Facebook, Instagram, etc...but this might be the one time of the year that you will actually be able to hang out with them. Take advantage of that and have fun!
Mark Carey and Curtis Iovito of Spartan Blades with Todd Begg Custom Knife Maker and Director of the Knife Makers Guild
Because this show is taking place during this extraordinary time with COVID-19, there are typical show exhibitors that will not be present and no doubt, regular attendees skipping out on this year’s show as well. If you do go, remember to play it safe. It might be wise to bring along a bottle of hand sanitizer as well, to include with your bottled water and snacks. Wash hands frequently. And face masks as well. By all means, if you do not feel well before the show - you might consider not coming. If you feel ill during the show - you might need to leave the show. Just use some common sense as well as enjoy yourself. With careful pre-planning on your part, you too can make the most of your BLADE Show experience. Though these tips are aimed at newbies, there might be some bits of info that you show veterans might be able to pick up and use as well. The MOST important thing to remember is: HAVE FUN! Travel safely and make memories!