The 5 Longest Running Exhibitions in the World

Aug 25, 2021 | Events, Uncategorized

What is the longest running exhibition in the world?

In 2022 as the world hopefully returns to ‘normal’, thousands of people will be plotting their travels for the biggest exhibitions and trade shows happening in every major city and country around the globe. Will they be attending one of the longest running exhibitions? Attendance figures grow exponentially, and as we enter a new decade, hundreds of new shows will be introduced to the public. The continuously growing events industry is enormous thus being integral to modern business and leisure culture, and essential to thriving enterprises. The first ever globally recognised exhibition was back in 1851 known as the ‘Great Exhibition’, held in London. It was to be a one-off event, and unfortunately didn’t return for a sequel, but the lasting impact it would have on culture is not to be undervalued.

Some exhibitions have come and gone, but there is a rising amount of noteworthy exhibitions that have built such a renowned reputation that they return every single year. So, which exhibitions are the longest running in history? How did they start? And just exactly how old are they!? Here are the biggest exhibitions in the world that have been running for the longest amount of time.

5. Paris Air Show – 1909

Spoiler alert – this will not be Paris’s last mention in this list. Anyway, we begin with the Paris Air Show, that has been in existence for over 110 years. However, the shows happen every two years, so despite there being more editions of many other exhibitions elsewhere, the 54 editions stretch back to pre-WWI, making it the 5th longest running show in history. It is currently the largest air show in the whole world in terms of exhibitors and sheer size of exhibit space. The record attendance in 2017 reached over 3 million people, with 2,453 international companies on show making it larger than the UK’s Farnborough show and Dubai’s Air Show.

Some exhibitions have come and gone, but there is a rising amount of noteworthy exhibitions that have built such a renowned reputation that they return every single year. So, which exhibitions are the longest running in history? How did they start? And just exactly how old are they!? Here are the biggest exhibitions in the world that have been running for the longest amount of time.

4. Ideal Home Show – 1908

The longest running exhibition in the UK is the Ideal Home Show, held at Olympia in London since 1908. A lot has changed since the first edition, but the core values of this event remain intact, with the week-long event showcasing absolutely everything associated to your home. The majority of people had to settle for a life of rented properties during the first few decades of this show’s existence, but a societal change allowed people to have higher incomes making it imaginable for people to own a home of their own. Hence, this show has been the catalyst of many trends and dramatic changes in the homing landscape, with new ideas such as open plan living and ‘green’ kitchens, as well as newly introduced appliances, such as the vacuum cleaner, toaster, and the electric kettle. The show has seen it all, and all have seen the show including the Queen visiting on numerous occasions, as well as other high profile celebrities such as the Rolling Stones, Eric Morecambe, and Tom Jones. Over 600 companies are promoting their products, attempting to generate sales, meeting customers and creating partnerships to last a lifetime.

For all their flaws, the Daily Mail can take credit for being the brains behind the exhibition, as they devised it from the very beginning, albeit primarily as just a publicity tool. However, their long-lasting relationship with the Ideal Home Show ended in 2009, as the events and publishing company Media 10, acquired it.

3. NAMM Show – 1902

NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) inaugurated in 1901, and created its first trade show in 1902. It has a reputation as the world’s largest trade-only event that specialises in music equipment, products and technology. Throughout the years, the main vision of NAMM has been to bring joy to the world by encouraging everyone to incorporate music into their daily life, and in particularly, influence the young people to take part in learning and making music. The show has over 100,000 registrants with abundance of knowledge, and innovative ideas to share with the rest of the world. Charlie Chaplin once made an appearance back in 1915, performing a skit demonstrating how to sell a piano.

Aside from a couple of years, the show has been hosted in the Anaheim Convention Center in California, USA. It took almost 80 years for Europe to have an answer to this show, which is called Musikmesse, located in Frankfurt, Germany. Also, the impact of NAMM has generated a second US show, Summer NAMM, which is located in Nashville, Tennessee, which is of course hosted in the summer months, with the original NAMM taking place in January. And finally, the show continues to grow with the She Rocks Awards that have been held every year since 2012, paying tribute to the hardest working women in the industry.

2. Paris Motor Show – 1898

Auto Shows appear annually across the face of the earth from Tokyo to Frankfurt, from Geneva to Detroit, and from Shanghai to London, but which city was the pioneer for motor shows? Yes, you guessed it, our friend across the channel, Paris – quelle surprise. In 1898, the capital of France created the show entitled Salon de l’Automobile, but later changed its name to Mondial de l’Automobile (Paris Motor Show), in 1986. The event has a rich history over its 120 years of innovations, with its first show in 1898 having a rule that only allowed automobiles to be showcased had they endured a trip from Paris to Versailles. Since the beginning of the 20th century, the show moved to the Grand Palais where it would stay for over 60 years, and despite two world wars and other troubles, the show would return for a triumphant reception after every hiatus.

It is not shocking to learn that this is the world’s most visited car show, as petrolheads and motorbike maniacs from all countries tend to turn up in huge numbers as a record 1.25 million people visited the 2016 edition. The Paris Motor Show remains an invitation to everyone who has automobile dreams, and with cars consistently evolving, the show will surely never die.

1. Paris International Agricultural Show – 1870

Here it is again, the City of Love, the City of Lights, and it also appears to be the City to have the first of everything. Not sure that’ll look so good on a postcard, though. At number five we saw Paris open up the world to the aerospace industry, and at number two, it was the first of many shows to present automobiles. Now, the oldest exhibition that is still going on today is the Paris International Agricultural Show, which has been ongoing annually since 1870. Until 1964, it was named as Concours général agricole (General Agricultural Show), and its primary focus during these generations was to simply have a competition for livestock farmers. That was it. It didn’t stop hundreds of thousands of people returning every year though.

In 1925, the event moved to its current location, Paris expo Porte de Versailles, and subsequently grew in more ways than one. The major draw wasn’t just the best bred farm animals, but also showcased wine and regional and dairy products for everyone to purchase. Now, the show is split into ‘four universes’, that include crop and plant sectors (including vegetable gardens), agricultural services, livestock production and retail products from regions across France and its overseas territories. Each pillar of this exhibition is expressly themed attracting more visitors than before, with over 700,000 attending in recent years, to view over 1,000 participants.

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