If the International Baking Industry Exposition 2010 will be your first Baking Expo, then you have something very special awaiting you at the Las Vegas Convention Center, starting Sept. 26. As the days tick off, you’ll find your anticipation of walking into this gathering of industry technology and expertise becoming almost palpable. You’ll feel it even if this marks your second, third, fourth or even your 10th Expo, as it does for me.

I remember my first Expo quite well. It took place Oct. 8-13, 1977, at Atlantic City, NJ. (Yes, it really was that long ago.) I had covered other large trade shows before, notably the food circus also known as the Restaurant Show, but Baking Expo completely surprised me. At the time, I was the editor and publishing director of Baking Industry, a magazine now 20 years gone, and had spent many long days — and several nights — preparing the issue that would go to Expo. For nearly three weeks after the issue’s close date, advertising demand kept bumping up its size. We scrambled to fill it.

When we checked the final dummy (a common publishing term), dispatched the issue to the printer and then reviewed the bluelines (remember, this was all pre-computer — ancient times, indeed!), we could finally breathe easier. My sales manager wanted to make calls in Philadelphia during the few days ahead of Expo, so off we went. Surprise, only a few people could see us. The rest were already doing set-up at the show. The drive across New Jersey ended at a run-down Boardwalk hotel. Another surprise, our original rooms were not ready, but the hotel conveniently found space for us. I got a top floor suite with a spa offering hot-and-cold running salt water.

On opening day, I walked into the Atlantic City Convention Hall, which I had only seen before as the backdrop for the Miss America TV broadcasts that my father loved to watch. Everything about the city and the convention facility seemed antiquated. Yet, a kind of pins-and-needles excitement kept growing with each step closer to the hall.

What was behind its steel entry doors took my breath away. The whole scene glittered with opportunity. Some exhibitors had set up full operating bakery makeup lines. One was making donuts in a long booth that took almost a complete aisle. The scent of fresh frying oil (and a little bit of burned insulation) filled the air. Here were pieces of equipment that I had never seen before, doing things I did not think possible. Here were ingredients completely new to the industry. Among other things, Expo ’77 saw the launch of multiroller dough sheeting technology as well as high-fructose corn syrup.

The next Expo took place in 1981 and opened the Las Vegas, NV, era for IBIE that lasted through 2004 for seven Expos in all. It made a stop at Orlando, FL, in 2007, and now we’re headed back to Vegas, baby!

You could think that having experienced nine Expos during my career, I might be a bit blasé about attending another one. But from everything I have heard so far about this event, it will not be just another baking trade show. Because Sosland Publishing Co. is the official publisher of the 2010 Show Daily issues and the 2010 IBIE Directory, we’re learning a lot about what show organizers and exhibitors have planned.

Several innovative technologies will debut, as will a number of ingredients specially developed for bakery applications. Top bakers will compete in three world-class contests to be held right on the show floor in sight of attendees. A comprehensive program focuses on the latest developments that shape the industry’s marketing, product development, regulatory and business environments. It truly will be the place “Where the Industry Unites,” as show organizers describe IBIE 2010.

Yes, I expect to be surprised again by what this Baking Expo will bring. And that might be the best surprise of all.