Nearly all the media reports from the Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.A) (NYSE:BRK.B) annual meeting focus on what Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger say during the question and answer period. Certainly, that's how it should be -- and the Fool has plenty of coverage for your learning pleasure, including a complete transcript of the session.
But Berkshire insiders know that there's much, much more going on than just the meeting. After all, 40,000 visitors need something else to do.
If you've never had the chance to journey to Omaha for the festivities, fear not. This video will show you all the craziness you're missing.
It's equal parts rock concert, state fair, and investing class -- with some 40-thousand of your closest friends.
Folks line up overnight in order to get near the front of the line at the CenturyLink Center. Doors open at 7 AM, but before that, the faithful were treated to a mini parade: With a marching band and Nebraska cheerleaders leading the way, the highlight has to be the sheer goofiness of a couple of Justin boots executives riding on genuine Texas Longhorn steers. The Wells Fargo stagecoach was pretty tame compared to that.
Oh yes, there was also a protest outside by pilots from Berkshire subsidiary NetJets. They have a beef with over wage and benefit concessions. As you'd expect in this friendly Midwestern city, one shareholder called it the most polite picket line he'd ever seen.
Things were slightly less friendly inside, as Warren Buffett made his annual tour of the exhibition hall amid a gaggle of reporters, camera people, and security guards. While I jostled, my colleague Matt Koppenheffer managed to get in a question about Berkshire's acquisition of a German motorcycle-gear business...
Matt Koppenheffer: Warren, now that you've cracked the code in Germany, what's next?
Warren Buffett: We just closed the deal in Germany a couple of days ago. Hopefully... I've heard from some German companies. They haven't been the right type yet, but I'd love to buy some more.
Matt: It's a great market.
Matt was especially excited about that because he heads up Fool Germany.
Finally, 7 AM rolled around, and the gates were opened for the shareholders. Officials did their best to slow them down with turnstiles this year, but it was still quite a scramble for the prime seats inside the arena.
However, I did not, thankfully, see a repeat of years past, when things got entirely out of hand.
High up in the press box, your crack Motley Fool team was getting ready for a demanding day transcribing the Q&A.
Rex: What do you have there, Matt?
Matt: I've got my pictures of Buffett from the Buffett walk-through scrum.
Rex: That turned out pretty well for you.
Matt: We'll see. I've got some bruised ribs, but I hope they're worth it.
I told you he was excited.
And if you've ever wondered why you don't see video of Warren and Charlie actually conducting the meeting and answering questions... it's because electronic recording of any kind, including photos, is strictly prohibited once the meeting starts. The best we can do is provide our transcript.... Linked on the page that houses this video.
And then when people get tired of hearing Buffett and Munger pontificate, they can come down here to the exhibit floor where all of the Berkshire brands are on display -- including the newest addition this year, with Heinz mustard.
It's a huge deal in the expo hall, and like Christmas in May for some of the retailers. Buffett says last year's sales included 1,385 pairs of Justin boots -- a pair every 23 seconds -- 13,440 pounds of See's candy, over 7,000 pairs of Wells Lamont work gloves, and 10,000 bottles of Heinz ketchup. No one seemed prouder of their purchases than this couple exiting the Fruit of the Loom booth with underwear and t-shirts for their grandson.
Rex: Is that your grandson's underwear?
Our grandson's going away to school and whatever else, you know.
Rex: Did you get a good deal?
I think so, yes we did. We didn't have enough time yesterday, so we came back.
Rex: He'll appreciate that.
Thank you, sir.
Yep... my grandparents went to the Berkshire Hathaway meeting, and all I got was this Fruit of the Loom t-shirt. See you next year, Omaha.
Reporting from Woodstock for Capitalists, I'm Motley Fool analyst Rex Moore.