DFW Spotlight
Peanut butter and jelly. Macaroni and cheese. Laurel and Hardy.  Some things just work together perfectly. Such is the case for Captivate Exhibits and client, Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin (DFW). This pair has collaborated over many years to create everything from expansive, multi-vendor trade show booths to a world-record breaking cheeseboard…and they aren’t done yet.

About Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin

Originally called the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, DFW is a non-profit funded entirely by Wisconsin dairy farmers. In a nutshell, DFW exists to develop markets for their best-in-the-world dairy products. In support of this mission, they exhibit at several trade shows aimed at decision-makers at retail and food service operators, whose task is to select what goes into a specialty cheese case at a store. Additionally, DFW has an experiential/PR division that participates in direct-to-consumer events aimed at elevating the perception and driving consumers to seek out Wisconsin cheeses when shopping.

A History of Working Together

Captivate Exhibits collaborates with both areas of Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin to help create dynamic and engaging experiences on the trade show floor and at special events.

“Dairy Farmers is a special client to work with. They are laser-focused on their mission and always bring a creative energy and a bold vision to the table, no matter the project,” according to John Schlosser, VP of Sales and Marketing at Captivate Exhibits.

Dairy Farmers of WisconsinThe relationship between Captivate and DFW began well over 10 years ago. In the early days of working together, the approach was fairly standard: design and build a booth that would then be used at multiple shows throughout the year. That approach has steadily grown and changed year-to-year.

“Our trade show presence has evolved over the years due to changes within DFW and in response to the market. It’s gotten bigger, better and more exciting as time has gone on,” explained Samantha Castro, Director – Buyer Missions & Trade Shows for Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin.

Highlighting Wisconsin Dairy Farmers

DFW’s mission is to promote Wisconsin farmers and the resulting products. In 2018, the concept of cubbies for vendors was born. Originally, vendors were provided simple table displays. The upgraded space provides a warm and vibrant pavilion with dedicated spaces for up to 12 manufacturers. Their spaces were custom designed and built to feel like a row of individual shops to share Wisconsin’s award-winning cheese and dairy products with booth visitors.

Captivate Exhibits built this attractive space with natural finishes and the flexibility for it to scale up or down in size. Cubbies can be added for additional vendors at larger shows or can be reduced for smaller footprints.

From This:

To This!


A Destination Booth Draws Attendees

This kind of vendor showcase is always a part of DFW’s exhibit. Surrounding this spot is where creativity is unleashed. A unique aspect of working with DFW is their belief in keeping their exhibit fresh and interesting. Many of the folks who come to the shows where DFW exhibits are repeat attendees. It is critical that DFW gives these visitors a reason to stop by their exhibit. This strategy has paid off as return attendees see DFW as having a “destination booth” where they stop by to see what is new year to year.

Part of DFW’s process involves debriefing after each trade show season. They gather all the key stakeholders, survey the staff and cheese companies and discuss what worked and what didn’t work.  Then, they hold a kickoff meeting with the same group to plan for the next year, which starts with the Winter Fancy Food Show in January. This is the meeting where end goals are articulated and the team gets to work on brainstorming big ideas for the exhibits.

Captivate Exhibits Delivers on Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin’s Vision

During their visioning sessions, the DFW team stays in communication with Captivate Exhibits. Working together they ensure the practicality of building the exhibit elements and ideas that are brainstormed.

“We like working with the team at Captivate, because they like a challenge and figuring out how to execute our concepts. They are able to take our design and dig into how it can be built, keeping in mind the venue’s space and restrictions. It is always solution-driven. If something we envisioned won’t work from a practical standpoint, the Captivate team always proposes alternatives,” according to Castro.

Creating Show Stopping Exhibits

Over the years, the collaboration between DFW and Captivate Exhibits has resulted in some truly eye-popping and creative spaces for attendees to enjoy.


The Cafe

The creation of the upgraded vendor space also included a pavilion with a French Street Café featuring an on-site chef, making tasty creations for visitors to enjoy. Part of executing this area included creating a hidden behind the scenes, a large sous chef prep area.

The Barn

Reflecting the farmers they are so proud to represent, one standout exhibit element is the “barn.” This showstopper has an open framework to maintain sight lines throughout the entire exhibit. It provides meeting areas and refrigerated displays of product.

The Cheese Board

Originally crafted as part of an effort to break a Guinness World Book of Records, the Captivate Exhibits team was tasked with creating a board that replicated a cheese board (only on a MUCH larger scale). The modular design allows it to be displayed at full size (10×40) or as a smaller version. Since this event, the cheeseboard has appeared across the country at SXSW, as part of trade show displays, and most recently at the “Cheese Ball” where it was used as part of the stage!

The Cheese Shop

The onset of the COVID pandemic brought the unique challenge of adapting the exhibit for restrictions, like one-way aisles.  With their usual creativity, the DFW team introduced the idea of a façade replicating the look of a high-end, retail cheese shop. DFW and Captivate Exhibits worked together to thoughtfully consider how to expose as much of the booth as possible to attendees, despite the one-way traffic pattern.

The Cheese Shop PLUS!

The cheese shop style of exhibit was built with elements like counters and refrigerated units to allow visitors to be pulled into the exhibit or directed around the perimeter as needed. It has since been enhanced to change the style of the entrance and to add new and interesting areas, like a backyard vignette and new meeting spaces.

Special Events Create Excitement

A separate team at Dairy Farmers is responsible for participating in experiential events that promotes Wisconsin cheese directly to consumers. Their focus is on finding creative ways to connect with everyday consumers to build an affinity for and elevate the perception of Wisconsin cheese across the nation. The hoped-for result is that when people shop, they will seek out Wisconsin’s high-end, specialty cheese.

The channel marketing and marketing communications groups at DFW work closely together and both have found value in their collaboration with Captivate Exhibits. Captivate Exhibits has been part of several special events put on by the direct-to-consumer team at DFW. As mentioned earlier, one such event involved the Guinness Book of World Records cheeseboard.

Breaking the Guinness Book of World Records for Largest Cheese Board

The giant board was unveiled in Madison, Wisconsin. The Captivate team worked in the wee hours of the morning to set up the barn structure and assemble the modular components of the large cheeseboard. The event was a success, with the cheeseboard earning the record and generating plenty of buzz in the media.


South by Southwest (SXSW)

Another noteworthy event was at South by Southwest. This popular conference and festival draws thousands of visitors every year. Under the direction of CMO, Suzanne Fanning, Dairy Farmers has established a presence there and kicked that effort in 2019 off with a stunning, circus-themed display.

The pop-up environment called for lightweight, easy-to-build theater facades that harkened back to the Wisconsin State Fair of years ago.  The cheese was displayed and served in state fair fashion with areas that replicated the look of food truck campers, big-top circus stage, festive overhead lighting and décor.   A working Ferris wheel provided a unique way to sample cheese. Every detail was covered. The DFW team even provided actors, jugglers, musicians and a big top ring leader to encourage attendees to sample and pair cheese, wine, beer and crackers. It made a big splash at SXSW and then hit the road for various events across the U.S.

A Perfect Pairing

To rise to the challenge of vision of the marketing teams at Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, you need the right trade show exhibit partner. The team at Captivate Exhibits looks forward to executing the ideas generated year after year. This is a good thing since there is no sign that the creative use of trade show and events is slowing down any time soon!

“We’ve thrown incredibly complex projects at Captivate over the years—things that would take a miracle, and they’ve delivered our miracle every time!” says Suzanne Fanning, CMO and Sr. VP for Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin / Wisconsin Cheese.

If you are ready to ramp up the creativity of your trade show presence, get in touch with one of our experts today. We can’t wait to bring your vision to life!