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Major milestone: Propane industry’s largest trade show marks 75 years

April 21, 2023 By    
Photo: brichuas/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Photo: brichuas/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Attendees of this year’s Southeastern Convention & International Propane Expo won’t just walk the trade show floor. They’ll take a step back in time.

A 60-ft. wall in the back of Hall C at Nashville’s Music City Center will feature a collection of photos from the industry’s most recent decades. The photo wall, part of what is being called “Lounge 1075,” will serve as a celebration of the Propane Expo’s 75th anniversary – the headline of this year’s show, running April 23-25. The lounge also will showcase older propane industry equipment and artifacts from exhibitors.

Kim Godlewski


“It will be a cool experience, especially for the younger crowd to walk through and see what’s there,” says Steve Kaminski, president and CEO of the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA).

Kim Godlewski of Industrial Propane Service (IPS) wasn’t sure how the celebration would look last June when she became chair of the NPGA Conventions Committee, which is tasked with planning the annual event.

“I knew it was going to happen, but I didn’t know what we were going to do to make a splash of it,” she says.

With Godlewski working with NPGA conventions and meetings leads Kristen White and Samantha Shay as well as industry volunteers, the anniversary celebration began to take shape. In fact, Godlewski spearheaded the name of the lounge during a brainstorming session.

“I’ve really enjoyed that,” she says of working with the committee on the planning process. “Understanding the history of the show and looking back at all the pictures, that made this year’s Expo fun to plan and be a part of.”

A look back

The 2022 Propane Expo marked the first regularly scheduled show since COVID canceled the 2020 event and delayed the 2021 event in Atlanta until the fall. It was also Kaminski’s first Propane Expo in Nashville.

New NPGA President and CEO Steve Kaminski


“It was a terrific show,” he says of the event that drew about 3,500 total attendees. “The participation was good; everyone was happy to get back on their feet. Nashville is a terrific place to have any sort of convention; they have laid out the plans extremely well. It’s a perfect location to walk to entertainment, evening social events [and] vendor-sponsored events.”

Nashville entered the mix as a Propane Expo host city in 2016 after NPGA sought ways to revitalize the show following decades in Atlanta. The move worked as a show record 4,100 attendees descended on Music City, which drew another 4,000 the following year. Meanwhile, the show’s run in Atlanta neared an end. NPGA has not contracted with Georgia’s largest city since the 2021 event and is not looking to do so, Kaminski says.

Instead, Charlotte, North Carolina, will become a new host city in 2024 and 2025 before the Propane Expo returns to Nashville in 2026 and 2027.

Of Charlotte, Kaminski says, “It’s similar in that the city is laid out well for a show of this type. In Nashville, we’re attached to the Country Music Hall of Fame. In Charlotte, we’ll be attached to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. So, there’s a lot of natural linkages that we can do in terms of putting on the networking and social piece of it as well as the education parts of the show.”

The Propane Education & Research Council will exhibit in booths 311 and 318 in Nashville. (Photo by LP Gas staff)

The Propane Education & Research Council will exhibit in booths 311 and 318 in Nashville. (Photo by LP Gas staff)

Direction of the show

While this year’s show celebrates its roots – NPGA blended its national convention into the long-running Southeastern Convention in the 1990s – Kaminski eyes the show attracting younger generations in future years through “incremental modernization.” He says the new venue next year will be a good place to take that step.

The sights and sounds of Nashville await propane industry members. (Photo: BobHemphill/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

The sights and sounds of Nashville await propane industry members. (Photo: BobHemphill/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

“I’ve already had a brainstorming session internally with ways we can attract younger audiences, continue to drive the younger generation to shows,” Kaminski says.

Of course, COVID interrupted the flow of the show, as the pandemic revealed how business can be done remotely through video conferencing and virtual events. The pandemic had companies reconsidering how they approach trade shows and other in-person events.

Kaminski acknowledged how some companies, coming out of COVID, scaled down their presence last year in Nashville. Based on how registration and exhibit space were trending this year – ahead of 2016’s record year, according to White – companies might not see the value of scaling back anymore.

“While a lot of people understood and learned lessons about what can be done [virtually], it was invaluable to remind people just how important person-to-person interaction is,” Kaminski says. “If you only know a person on Zoom, it doesn’t have the same impact when it comes to making business decisions as working with someone you’ve met in person and had shared experiences with.”

IPS has exhibited at the Propane Expo for 15 years, and while Godlewski says equipment and technology advancements have been noticeable on the show floor over the years, one part of the event hasn’t changed.

“It always has been a great way to talk to customers, vendors and friends in the industry,” she says. “That’s what I look forward to from the show. That’s how it was back then; that’s how it is now.”

In addition to the lounge, where attendees also can enjoy putting greens or a game of cornhole, this year’s show floor will have some of the familiar features of past years, including the Autogas Pavilion, New Product Showcase and Fast Track educational sessions.

Did you know?

Emerson/Fisher LPG Equipment, RegO and Rochester Gauges are the only companies having exhibited for all 75 years of the Propane Expo.

A history lesson and other sessions

Some companies are using the Propane Expo’s anniversary celebration to look back on their own history. Christine Foran of Foran Forensics and Jed Isbell of Conner & Winters will present about the 40-year history of the Propane Gas Defense Association. The educational session, set for April 23, will include discussions about reported case decisions, real-life case studies and best practices for propane marketing, safety awareness and accident investigation and defense.

For more information about the educational sessions or the Propane Expo in general, visit

About the Author:

Brian Richesson is the editor in chief of LP Gas Magazine. Contact him at or 216-706-3748.

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