This entire week, in the days (and for some, a few late nights) leading up to the ceremonial ribbon cutting and official opening of ETS-LDI 05 in Orlando, exhibitors donned their work clothes, rolled up their sleeves, and strapped on their toolbelts to get their booths ready for this annual exhbition of the latest in lighting, staging, projection and audio. In Exhibit Hall A of the Orlando Orange County Convention Center, veteran exhibitors such as High End Systems (one of the inaugural sponsor of the show all those years ago in Dallas) as well as newcomers such as Cyberhoist spent Monday thru Thursday getting ready for Friday's 10am opening.

From all appearances, they'll all have crowded booths on their hands. Despite some initial concerns about regional attendance in the wake of Hurricane Wilma last month, LDI show director Sharon Morabito calls pre-show attendance figures "healthy and strong."

"The mood this year is good and upbeat," Morabito says. "Our new contractor, GES, is doing a great job. Move in has been extremely smooth. And we'll be getting extremely qualified attendance that we always get in this venue.

"We're particularly excited about this year's ET Live exhibit," she adds, "which is designed to showcase the latest in sound and staging technologies, and the Technologies for Worship 'Hands Up, Hands On' pavilion on the show floor. Both are in their second year with the show, and both seem poised to break out in 05."

Meanwhile, a healthy contingency of early arrivers got to take a peek behind the scenes of some of the city's newest attractions at Backstage Orlando, which was held Nov. 7-9. Over 35 lucky people saw everything from the new Disco H20 water ride at Wet n' Wild to the new Mummy 3D attraction at Universal Studios Florida to all of the latest offerings at Disney World. At the same time, over 200 others took part in the hugely popular LDInstitute, which ran Nov. 7-10 and offered everything from console training to the legendary Syn-Aud-Con series of audio sessions, making its debut at LDI this year.

But for a larger group of entertainment technology professionals, most of the week was spent inside Exhibit Hall A, coping with the usual hurry-up-and-wait atmosphere of most show load-ins, not to mention the greasy food and classic rock blaring from more than a handful of booths.

Another opening, another show...