40th Ag Expo Arrives

Some tire-kicking, deal-making and politicking will be featured during the 40th annual World Ag Expo, which opens today at the International Agri-Center in Tulare.

That's not to mention the JCB Flamethrower backhoe that travels about 90 mph and shoots flames out its exhaust pipe.

Actually, the backhoe will do its thing -- along with fireworks -- as part of West Coast Nationals competition among power-pulling machines at the Tulare County Fairgrounds tonight and Wednesday night.

If you're looking for backhoes of any description, you're certain to find them among 1,600 exhibitors at the huge show, which is expected to draw more than 100,000 visitors over its three-day run.

The expo offers everything from harvest buckets to machinery in the heavy-metal category priced at hundreds of thousands of dollars. It teems with workshops on topics ranging from air and water regulations to the future of ethanol and alternative fuels. That's in addition to cooking and craft demonstrations. An example of the variety: On Thursday, there's a workshop on making candy canes held by leaders of the volunteer group called the Happy Cookers. That comes right after the workshop on "Managing and Troubleshooting Your Drip Irrigation System."

Special visitors this year include Rudy Giuliani, who is expected to seek the 2008 Republican nomination for president. The former New York City mayor will attend the opening ceremonies for the Expo at the Heritage Center at 8:15 a.m. today.

Park and Ride passengers can take advantage of the free shuttle service running every 15 minutes, and also can purchase admission tickets to the Expo without waiting in line, and enjoy a complimentary cup of coffee.