SHERIDAN — California resident Lana Smith visits Sheridan every spring to display her husband’s handcrafted knives at the Rocky Mountain Leather Trade Show.
As the owner of Chuck Smith Tools in Valley Center, Calif., she’s certainly no stranger to travel.
Her occupation as a supplier of fine leather cutting tools necessitates frequent treks across the country to attend trade shows and introduce potential new customers to her highly specialized equipment.
Still, there are few trips she anticipates as eagerly as Sheridan.
“This is like a vacation for people,” she said Friday.
Smith and her husband, Chuck, have been coming to the Sheridan event for 20 years since the early days of the now renowned event.
While other shows in other cities also provide opportunities for leather crafters to expand their reach, Sheridan is a special stop for Smith for several reasons.
“It’s a great location and great people,” she said simply.
Other out-of-town vendors echoed her sentiments and said the centralized location, abundance of lodging options and large cowboy population make Sheridan’s convention unique among leather shows.
And as local government and business leaders alike attempt to draw more visitors to Sheridan, the leather show represents a unique opportunity to further cement the Sheridan brand.
Dayton saddletree maker Matt Miller said the show provides an opportunity to introduce businesspeople to the Sheridan area, while providing the city with an entire weekend of frenzied economic activity.
“This is a big deal for this town,” he said.
Knife maker Terry Knipschield, meanwhile, traveled from Rochester, Minn., because he said the Sheridan show offers a unique opportunity to network with buyers and sellers from across the United States and abroad.
“It’s generally considered, in the leather trade, to be the (best) show,” he said. “You get about the best of the best in this show in just about every field you can imagine.”
For other out-of-town vendors, the Sheridan show is an important stop on their annual travel schedule simply for its ability to increase their exposure.
Harry Knipe of Grand Junction, Colo., came to sell a specialized piece of machinery that allows saddle makers to save time and craft more precise final products. In Sheridan, he’s able to get the word out in the most efficient way possible.
“My market is pretty specific, and it’s important for me to demonstrate in person how the tool works,” he said.
With vendors and visitors converging on the event from all corners of the country, he said Sheridan is the ideal location to do just that.
Other vendors, including Trina Weber of Nampa, Idaho, said they regularly attend the event because of its size. As one of the largest leather shows in the United States, Weber said the Sheridan convention is a worthwhile endeavor for craftsmen like her.
“There’s a wide variety of things that bring the saddle makers (here),” she said.
The free event runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday at the Holiday Inn.