If there has ever been a year for the California Equipment Show - beg your pardon - World Ag Expo, to live up to its "wet" reputation, 2001 is the year.

It has been a relatively dry year so far in California, which has experienced an unprecedented six straight years of normal or above normal rainfall. The farther away farmers get from the last drought, the more vivid it becomes in their minds.

Nothing would make them happier to have to get the rubber boots out of the pickup and don their raincoats to take World Ag Expo Feb. 13-15 at the International Agri-Center showgrounds off Highway 99 in Tulare, Calif.

Rain for years was the norm during farm show week, but it has been relatively dry the past few years of the show that began as the California and Row Crop Equipment Show in 1968 at the Tulare County Fairgrounds.

It outgrew the fairgrounds and along the way was renamed a couple more times before it moved to the present site in 1982. This year it's new name is the World Ag Expo.

The new moniker, according to general manager Gary Schulz, more accurately reflects the show's status as the world's largest, located in the world's most productive agricultural region. It is also shorter and easier to say, added Schulz.

The 2001 edition of World Ag Expo will offer more than two million square feet of exhibit space, and more than 1,500 exhibitors are expected to display products, technology and supplies for the farm, dairy, ranch and construction industries. It is the largest farm show in the world.

Heritage Complex New this year is Heritage Complex, which houses the International Trade Center, a museum and a learning center year-round, as well as the International Business Center during World Ag Expo. Another new feature is the E-Commerce Pavilion, which will include exhibits and daily presentations.

In addition to the display of products, technology and equipment, the show offers a variety of free seminars each year. State and national leaders in exporting offer seminars each day of the show and California Women for Agriculture presents seminars daily on topics ranging from personal finance and water rights to ag uses of the Internet, and the Women in Ag committee hosts fashion shows and cooking demonstrations throughout the show.

Dick Bramer is chairman of this year's show. Bramer began in 1968 as a part-time volunteer and exhibitor, working a booth for Germain's Seed Co. at the show.

Later, with a job change to Basic Vegetable Products, he was able to be a full-time volunteer. He hasn't missed a year since 1968.

"I was raised in agriculture and knew the importance of what they were trying to do," Bramer recalled of the early years. "I thought I could contribute something and my involvement just evolved from there. The camaraderie is wonderful. People come from a great distance, taking their vacations in order to be a volunteer."

Bramer retired in 1993, and now focuses on the family's citrus and olive ranch in Lindsay, along with Judith, his wife of 48 years.

"This will be an exciting year, with the new building open and the new name," said Bramer, who holds a degree in business management from the University of Tulsa.