On a clear afternoon, the Sierra Nevada becomes a magnificent backdrop to the largest agricultural gathering in California each February.

World Ag Expo exhibitor banners and signs contrast colorfully with what will be a snow encased mountain range this year for the 44th annual running of the world’s largest agricultural exposition Feb. 8-10 at the International Agri-Center in Tulare, Calif.

One of the heaviest snow packs in several years will be evident to the 100,000 people who are expected to visit World Ag Expo’s nearly 1,500 exhibitors within the 2.6 million-square-foot show grounds located alongside Highway 99 midway between Fresno and Bakersfield.

Snow melt from the 640-mile long mountain range is major source of water for farmers and ranchers in California. Early-season measurements reflected a snow accumulation of at least 200 percent of normal this year. This is sure to give an economic boost to attendees and exhibitors at World Ag Expo.

“World Ag Expo is truly an experience, and there is something new and different to see each year,” says Lee Coito, 2011 World Ag Expo chairman and a Tulare County dairyman. “It is a blend of impressive big pickers and tractors, the latest in technology, a chance to see old friends and great food that supports great causes. We’re proud to support the world’s most important industry. ”

The theme of this year’s Expo is “Tools for Agri-Business”

Show hours are 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday, the final show day. General admission is $12 per person.

Coito is one of the more than 1,200 orange-jacketed-volunteers who make the show happen each year.

“For just three days in February, World Ag Expo brings together the world of agriculture,” Coito noted. “This expo is where farmers, dairymen and ranchers see great innovations for the first time. Much of this new technology is then adopted as part of their operations. It’s all thanks to World Ag Expo volunteers.”

New for 2011 is a first-ever concert series, kicking off Tuesday with CMA Male Vocalist of the Year, Blake Shelton. The concert is a fund-raiser for a new initiative of the International Agri-Center to support and promote California agriculture.

Shelton will perform inside the new Entertainment Pavilion on the show grounds. Tickets are $40, $60 and $80 each and are on sale at worldagexpo.com. Opening for Shelton will be Warner Brothers recording artist Jason Jones.

The second night of the series is a fund-raiser for the new College of the Sequoias agriculture program and will feature Grammy nominee David Nail with opening act Stealing Angels. Tickets are available online for $65, $50 and $25.

World Ag Expo attendees will get to experience agricultural equipment first-hand in the Ride and Drive test area where Toyota, American Honda, Dodge, John Deere, Topcon and Gehl allow attendees to test drive the newest products in real, on-the-farm conditions.

A vast array of dairy products, technology and services will be on display in the 70,000-square-foot Farm Credit Dairy Center.

Pavilions A and B will feature general agriculture and irrigation exhibits, while Pavilion C features agri-chemicals, fertilizer and spray equipment exhibitors. New for 2011, Pavilion D will feature a beef and livestock emphasis, with a beef and livestock demonstration area where exhibitors can showcase new technology.

Located in the 22,500-square-foot pavilion in the southwest corner of the grounds, the Beef and Livestock demonstration area will be the premier location where exhibitors will showcase new technology for the beef and livestock industry.

Cattle breed associations Red Angus, Angus and Hereford will provide speakers on heterosis, feed efficiency, evaluations and land availability. Jon Mollhagen of Moly Mfg Co. will have a Silencer Hydraulic Squeeze Chute for live demonstrations that will take place between seminar times. Demonstrations will be held by Ultrasound Practitioner John Openshaw and Jon from Moly Mfg. Check worldagexpo.com for more information.

Top-40 Professional Bull Rider, Brendon Clark will be signing autographs and presenting giveaways from the Professional Bull Riders exhibit space.