The BLADE Show is the Gigantopithecus of knife events. How did it get there? In chronological order, let’s review.
1) No Top 10 list can start without the start, and the BLADE Show started when BLADE Magazine Cutlery Hall-Of-Fame® members Jim Parker and Bruce Voyles organized the first one at the Drawbridge Motor Inn across the Ohio River from Cincinnati in Erlanger, Kentucky, in 1981.
2) Jim and Bruce’s creation, in 1983, of the BLADE Knife-Of-The-Year® Awards and the BLADE Magazine Hall Of Fame® set in motion two cutlery industry achievements that today are among the most coveted knife recognitions. Announcing them all at the BLADE Show gave—and to give—both the honors themselves and the show more cachet.
3) Moving the BLADE Show to the sprawling Holiday Convention Center in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1984, to the site of the 1982 World’s Fair announced to the community that Parker and Voyles were determined to host a serious knife show contender.
4) The decision by the American Bladesmith Society to hold its annual meeting in conjunction with the BLADE Show—which the ABS has done every year since—established bona fides with many in the custom knife industry.
5) The decision in 1992 by Bruce Voyles, who by that time owned both BLADE® Magazine and the BLADE Show, to move the BLADE Show to the Renaissance Waverly in Atlanta thrusted the event onto the international cutlery stage. The show has never looked back.
6) The phenomenon that remains The Pit—the sunken lounge in the Renaissance Atlanta Waverly Hotel—became a magnet not only for revelers after the BLADE Show’s daily closings, but also a place where industry movers and shakers brainstorm new knives and knife innovations that shape the cutlery industry.
7) Then-BLADE publisher David Kowalski’s decision in 1997 to move the BLADE Show from the Renaissance to the adjacent Cobb Galleria Centre exhibition halls expanded the show’s look and size dramatically, and completed its ascension to the status of the world’s largest knife show.
8) The entire cutlery industry came together as one at the 2009 BLADE Show to help defeat the scurrilous attempt by U.S. Customs to classify all one-hand-opening knives as switchblades/automatics. If Customs had succeeded, the sporting knife industry—and thus the BLADE Show—would be shadows of what they are today.
9) The wholesale embracing of the BLADE Show over the past five to 10 years by the international cutlery community as the ultimate knife event has elevated the show to unheard of heights. A wealth of exhibitors—including herds of Knife-Of-The-Year and custom knife judging competition winning makers—dealers, buyers/collectors and industry professionals from every continent but Antarctica have taken the BLADE Show from being not only the world’s largest knife event, but also the most transformative global knife forum of all time.
10) Last, but most important of all, are the many thousands of patrons over the years who have made the pilgrimage to the BLADE Show to enjoy knives, knifemakers and each other in all their splendor. In the final analysis, it is the supporters of any endeavor that make the endeavor go. And nowhere does the preceding statement apply more aptly than in the case of the patrons of the BLADE Show.