On January 7 at 6:30 p.m., the day after kickoff speaker Bill Gates has already teased early arrivals with Microsoft's vision of the future, dignitaries will cut the ribbon, a band will play, and the teeming masses of CES visitors will pour into the convention center for the first time.

Fastidious, round-the-clock maintenance of the show continues for the next four days by a cleaning crew of 100, as the 110,000-plus showgoers trash the place with virtually as many emptied cups and water bottles, plastic plates, utensils, and more, doled out by Aramark's catering team of 550.

THE PARTY'S OVER
About 3 p.m. on Sunday, an hour before the show officially closes, staffers at some of the smaller, quieter booths will begin breaking down, though by show rules, they shouldn't. Then at 4, the last convention stragglers are ushered out and the teardown begins in earnest, with light rigs coming down first, carpets rolling up, and thousands of packing crates arriving back from satellite storage facilities.

"We've got till Wednesday at midnight to finish," says Clove. "The National Home Builders Show begins its move in at 12:01 a.m."

covers consumer electronics and entertainment topics for the Philadelphia Daily News and the Knight Ridder-Tribune Newswire. His byline has also appeared in Fortune, Playboy, and Popular Science.




SHOW SURVIVOR

By CHRIS TUCKER

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Off to a gigantic trade show? Here's how to get more than sore feet from those miles of aisles.

It's the second or third (but feels like the fifteenth) day of a big trade show. Call it the American Association of Really Gargantuan Halls (AARGH).

Are you exhibiting? If so, your toughest competitor has a strobe-lit, center-of-the-action pagoda featuring the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders and Bill Gates handing out autographed fifties. Alas, you're so well hidden that the last visitor you saw was led by a Sherpa guide. You can even hear dumpsters being emptied.

Are you there to impress clients or schmooze with hot prospects? If so, your cellphone's dead and you're an hour late for a meeting at Booth 2338, or 2383, 2833, or whatever you scribbled on that hotel scratch pad while standing in line for late registration.

You'd love to switch to Plan B, but you can't because you never had Plan A.