The Making Of
The Ventura County Coast (VCC) trade show experience—featuring a refurbished VW bus with an immersive sound system and custom plush seats—is so real, so moving, you almost expect it to drive off into the California sunset.
“The VCC experience brings you from the strawberry fields into downtown and onto the beach. It feels like you’re actually taking a trip through Ventura County Coast,” said Garrett Mier, a senior partner at Creative Displays, the Camarillo-based company hired to build the exhibit.
Fun Fact: We created an interactive virtual experience turning our real-life trade show experience into an immersive digital environment that delivers the most realistic experience you can have without being there in-person. See for yourself by exploring our digital environment above.
VCC’s leadership team first came to Creative Displays with a big goal: to represent the organization’s partner cities—Camarillo, Oxnard, Ventura and Port Hueneme—in one unified, interactive experience that could travel around the country connecting with and inspiring people to visit Ventura County Coast.
In years past, representatives from each city traveled to trade shows and other events to promote their individual brands. While this is still true for some events, a new vision for large events began to take shape. By combining partner resources under the umbrella of VCC’s brand, the region is now able to shine even brighter with a dynamic experience that inspires people to visit Ventura County Coast.
“[VCC’s] newly formed trade show committee campaigned to all the visitor bureaus to join as one unified, identifiable region and ‘Go Big,’” explained Pearl Fiest, a VCC board member, trade show committee co-chair, and general manager of the Ventura Beach Marriott. “This led us to revamping our ideas about trade shows and developing a multi-sensory experience to establish positive emotional connections to Ventura County Coast.”
Inspired by Highway 101, which connects all four Ventura County Coast communities, the team reached out to Wes McFarland at Vdub Classics, a local Volkswagen restoration company, to create the experience focal point: the front end of a vintage 1968 VW bus. For finishing touches, the team wanted to add components that highlighted Ventura County Coast’s agriculture and wine industry. So they built a sensory component into the booth that fills the air with a strawberry scent.
Fun fact: The bus used for the exhibit was severely damaged by fire leaving little more than the framework. Creative Displays was able to see past the charred remains and breath new life into California Classic bus. They performed extensive body work and layed down a fresh coat of white paint before delivering the bus to Vdub Classics who expertly restored it, adding new retro dashboard components, plush reupholstered seats, and a state-of-the-art sound system.
What can attendees expect of this unusual feature? “Their senses will be alive!” said Marlyss Auster, VCC board member, trade show committee co-chair and president and CEO of Visit Ventura. “We worked on introducing Ventura County Coast through all senses.”
Creative Displays also created “Cork Hole,” a wine-focused version of the game Corn Hole, by cutting a wine barrel in half and drilling differently sized holes in it. The objective of the game is to sink as many wine corks as possible in the barrel holes.
To top it all off, they reached out to legendary custom surfboard designer Steve Walden of Walden Surfboards to make custom boards that could be strapped to the VW’s roof rack.
“We literally cut the boards in half and then ‘glassed’ the raw ends so the boards looked finished,” explained Brandy Herrin with Walden Surfboards. “Steve cleaned the boards up, did some cosmetic repairs to them, and added the VCC logos to the rails.”
The finished product represents Ventura County Coast’s classic, “California cool” culture.
To tie everything together, Creative Displays sourced reclaimed barnwood from a local company to build a portable display area.
And, of course, it wouldn’t be a trade show without a giveaway. Staying with the “Go Big” theme, VCC reach out to Shelley Sund, owner of Ventura Bike Depot, for some classic California beach cruisers. The VCC team gives away a bike to one lucky winner at select trade show/events.
“I hope the winners will have a warm place in their hearts for the bike, Ventura, and the whole experience every time they take a spin on their new bike!,” Sund said.
The reaction VCC representatives receive at trade shows has been overwhelmingly positive, from attendees and competitors alike. One thing’s for sure: VCC is truly heading places together.
“The VCC booth nails it,” Herrin said. “Executive Director Brian Tucker made sure everything was authentic, from a real VW bus to our surfboards, everything was locally sourced and what real locals use.”
Added Vdub Classics owner McFarland, “I just think the experience is just perfect. That’s what Ventura County Coast is to me: a VW bus, with a surfboard on top, driving down the coast.”
“The challenge was to reimagine how we approach trade shows, we wanted an experience not just another exhibit” said Brian Tucker, VCC Executive Director. “There is a feeling you get when you explore our region, the only way I can explain it is, good vibes. Everything from perfect weather, our beaches, cool downtown areas, diverse shopping options, direct access to the Channel Islands National Park and plenty of accommodations make this the perfect California destination. Thanks to the visionary leadership of our trade show committee, forward thinking board of directors and community partners, we now have a regionally authentic trade show experience and that the once Big Idea is our new normal as we continue heading places together.”
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