Tradex: Living, Breathing Space Marks 25 Years

Tradex in Abbotsford is a living, breathing space.  Just watch it.  Show after show, event after event, Tradex inhales the wares, displays, and people, takes a short break so its patrons can savour the moment, then exhales so it can begin its next breath.

Since its birth on July 28, 1991, the Fraser Valley Trade and Exhibition Centre (Tradex) has created a kaleidoscope of memories for those who have walked through its doors. Add to that the millions of dollars of economic development impact it has on the City of Abbotsford and the region and you can begin to understand its role in helping Abbotsford become the Hub of the Fraser Valley.

Tradex turns 25 later this month, and Tourism Abbotsford/Tradex executive director Craig Nichols is planning to mark the occasion with a get-together of special guests. In addition, you’ll find a series of bi-monthly blog posts on the facility’s website that will capture the priceless stories that cause key show organizers to crack a smile.

Imagine if the Tradex walls could talk.

Its 120,000 square foot H-frame, with a base that was one of the largest concrete pours in the region at the time, has been home to the stars of the film American Graffiti (Candy Clark, Paul Le Mat, Bo Hopkins), Jerry Mathers aka Theodore The Beaver Cleaver, HGTV’s affable handyman Mike Holmes, and of course Henry Winkler, The Fonz from Happy Days.

From hockey greats, to famous chefs and soap stars, to the Batmobile.

Brad Styba, who was there as a contractor for Tradex from the day its huge hangar-like doors rolled open, is full of stories.  He has seen the great personalities like Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull, Eddy Shack, and others who gathered at the facility for the impressive Hockey Tour 92.

Styba has dealt with locals rehearsing for the Business in Black dance team, watched Overhaulin’s Chip Foose share his hotrod stories. and bumped into actors from The Young and the Restless and members from of The Real Housewives of Vancouver. He witnessed bears, eagles, hawks and even electronic dinosaurs grace his stage as his two-way staff communicator crackled.

Graham Kerr the famed Galloping Gourmet chef and the 1960s dynamic duo’s Batmobile (visiting with its creator George Barris at the BC Classic & Custom Car Show) have also been “in the house.”

Styba is now managing director, business development at Tradex. For the last six years he has been an employee of Tourism Abbotsford.

Recycling, rainwater, and a culinary team of its own.

He and Nichols (who has been with Tradex for two years since he arrived from his position as Flyover Canada general manager) are keen to share the amazing recycling efforts of Tradex, its rainwater collection system, the power-saving lighting upgrades, its culinary team lead by Chef Michel Gagnon, the incredible staff, and the shows that attract some 350,000 people each year.

Styba fondly reflects on the first Fraser Valley Boat and Sportsmen’s Show at Tradex, when they had no overflow parking and had to redirect 1,000 cars onto the Abbotsford International Airport apron. He has seen Tradex, the second-largest facility of its kind in B.C., dressed as the North Pole, a nursery, a wedding reception hall for 2,500, a high-brow awards venue, a volleyball centre, an educational facility, a business and sports card showcase, and among other things, a celebratory place to bring in a new year.

There is so much to tell — too much for one blog post — so we’ll be back with more tales from Tradex.

Party time.

To celebrate the 25th anniversary, Tradex is inviting several friends, partners and suppliers to enjoy food prepared by Chef Michel Gagnon and his team. The celebration includes speeches and a cameo by former Tourism Abbotsford executive director Dan Stefanson. Lisa Adrianne Witt will perform on the piano.

“In addition to providing enormous economic benefits for the community, Tradex has acted as a gathering place for the past 25 years,” said Nichols. “We’re looking forward to sharing some of the stories that have played out here during this time.”