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Violins were tuning up in the background late Monday afternoon in the lobby of the Von Braun Center, preparing for the fanfare for the arriving guests and the soundtrack that would accompany the evening. 

It was part of the celebratory welcome for the 20th annual Space & Missile Defense Symposium (SMD), one of Huntsville’s largest, longest-running and most important conventions. 

More than 3,000 visitors are expected to the Symposium, with more than 200 exhibitors in the South Hall of the VBC. 

The Symposium, according to its website, is “the leading educational, professional development and networking event in the space and missile defense community.” 

“It’s always great to have visitors to our city, but the SMD Symposium is something special,” said Mayor Tommy Battle. “It not only shows what terrific hosts we can be, but it also reaffirms Huntsville’s role in the global community of space and missile defense. Through Redstone Arsenal and all its partners and contractors, Huntsville plays a major part in keeping our country safe.” 

Redstone, with more than 14,000 military and civilian workers, is the largest employer in Huntsville and many of the corporations who have SMD Symposium exhibits have a significant presence in Huntsville. 

Through Redstone Arsenal and all its partners and contractors, Huntsville plays a major part in keeping our country safe.”

“SMD is important to us because Huntsville is at the center of missile defense,” SMD committee member Bob English said Monday as final preparations were being made at the VBC. “A large portion of Redstone Arsenal is devoted to missile defense and a large portion of the companies in Cummings Research Park are oriented toward space and missile defense. With that combination, it makes this a big event for Huntsville.” 

At its core, SMD is an enormous trade show, with companies displaying their latest developments and future projects across the 100,000-square foot exhibition hall. 

It also has a number of leaders in the industry and from government agencies who conduct seminars or speak to the attendees, providing, as English said, “an opportunity to come together and share ideas and get updates on the latest technology.” 

Some of the technology on display makes for education and fun for the attendees. The Missile Defense Agency’s Warfighter Operational Support Directorate will again have its Interactive Wargame. Attendees are asked to register online to participate. 

The SMD will also have daily newspaper coverage. Defense News will be printing a daily edition that will be distributed to the attendees and at the hotels in which they’re staying and will feature news, interviews and analysis from the event. 

While advance registration and various fee levels are in place to attend sessions and luncheons, interested parties may register on-site for exhibition hall access only.