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Midwest Tool Expo and Auction Turns 20

Photography Provided

MidwestErvin Miller knows a good idea when he sees one. That idea has become the Midwest Tool Expo and Auction, an event that is entering its 20th year and typically draws thousands of visitors and multiple vendors to Shipshewana.

The 2022 event is scheduled for January 28 and 29 at the Michiana Event Center (MEC) in Shipshewana. On Friday doors open at 9 a.m. and close at 6 p.m., and on Saturday hours are 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“It is more than a two-day event,” Miller explains. “It starts with setup on the 25th and ends on the 31st with teardown. The action in between those dates is inspiring.”

There are two distinct components to the event – the tool expo and auction, and the health and wellness fair. Miller’s wife Suella assists in coordinating the health and wellness portion, and family and employees at Miller’s business, E&S Wood Creations, help before and during the expo.

In addition, the program features motivational speakers such as keynote speaker Conor Cunneen of Naperville, Illinois, who blends humor with his inspirational insights. Dr. Patrick Flynn of Green Bay, Wisconsin, will address issues around chronic health conditions.

This year a seminar is planned to discuss fraud. Past topics included finances, accounting and other discussions related to the business side of the expo, as well as nutrition and dental health among other topics on the health and wellness side.

More than $20,000 in door prizes will be given away to those attending this year’s expo. Prizes include furniture, tools, spa packages, cookware, gift cards and cash.

MidwestThe auction starts at 9 a.m. on Saturday, with five sales rings operating, promising exciting auction action for buyers, sellers and spectators.

Miller says the expo and auction are family friendly. There is food service on-site, including free coffee for vendors and attendees.

The idea for the expo was based on similar events held in Michigan and Ohio, by Miller’s own acknowledgement. He recognized the appeal of having the event in this region of the Midwest, and the potential benefit to the community. 

The first show of its kind in this region began in 2002 at the Clear Spring Produce Auction barn, organized by Robert Mishler and Willis Yoder as a way for people to sell unused or unneeded tools. Miller joined the group in 2004 and the name changed to the Northern Indiana Tool Auction and Expo. It moved to the Shipshewana Auction barn. 

“In 2005 the auction grew in leaps and bounds with 103 booths and 53 vendors,” Miller recalls. “In the Shipshewana building we were filled to capacity with 116 booths in 2006, and the auction grew to three rings.”

More space was needed and was eventually procured in 2010 in Howe, at a 150,000-square-foot building. The move further expanded the event, accommodating a fourth auction sales ring and an indoor exhibit space. It was also then that the last weekend in January was set as the ongoing dates for the event. 

A good illustration of the growth and popularity of the event can be found in comparing the one-page advertising flyer for the first expo to the 112-page program guide for this year’s event. The event has also steadily outgrown its previous venues, settling into the MEC in 2017. The expo was the first trade show held in the then-brand-new facility.

In 2016 Miller and Mishler bought out Yoder, with the intent of making the event a regional show. The original name was then changed to reflect this new direction, becoming the Midwest Tool Expo and Auction. The first event, called the Northern Indiana Construction and Woodworking Auction, had only a few vendor booths. Through the years the number of vendor booths increased, with the expo hosting up to 430 booths in the tool area and an additional 106 booths in the health and wellness area. 

Miller expects the booth spaces to be occupied by vendors from the local area and throughout the Midwest, as well as California, Rhode Island, Florida and all points in between. 

MidwestOn average, Miller says about 10,000 people attend the event each year. It was held last year with social distancing precautions in place and was still attended by about 9,000 people.

Those attending the event are interested in the expo for various reasons, and people come from as far as 600 miles away to take part, Miller says. Some are owners and operators from the 150-plus local construction, building and woodworking businesses. Others have hobby shops. Others are homeowners looking for tools or equipment to use on their property. 

“These people are a mixed group,” Miller says. 

When the Midwest Health and Wellness Expo was added to the event in 2016, it began to draw more families, Miller says. At that point there was something for everyone, not just those looking for tools and equipment.

Admission is $5, but children under 15 years of age are admitted for free. Miller advises those planning to attend to expect large crowds and to come early on auction day.

Miller says he has been “blessed” by the success of the expo. 

“Where do we go from here?” he says. “If it continues to grow as it did in the last 10 years, we will be looking at adjusting our sails to meet the wind and waves as we grow. We have experienced many of God’s blessings over the years and our goal has always been to fill a need that this community and the surrounding areas have. With it we have experienced many new friendships.”

The Michiana Event Center is located at 455 East Farver Street in Shipshewana. For more information on the Midwest Tool Expo and Auction, visit midwesttoolexpo.com. Contact Miller at 260-768-3033, or via email at ervin@eswoodcreations.com.

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