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This aerial view of Epic's headquarters in Verona, looking south, shows the new Farm Campus at the very top and the new auditorium, Deep Space, at the bottom right.

While the World Dairy Expo remains by far the biggest single business event in the Madison area, the annual Epic Systems Users Group Meeting is closing the gap.

And with a nod to Wisconsin’s agricultural heritage, UGM 2014 will even feature cows and tractors at Epic’s sprawling campus on the west side of Verona.

The electronic medical records firm is expecting nearly 10,000 customers from around the globe to visit for the 35th annual meeting that runs Monday through Thursday. Add in 8,100 Epic employees and you can imagine the scope of the event.

Thousands of hotel rooms have been booked and with space tight, some attendees might find themselves as far away as Wisconsin Dells.

“It’s a huge honor for us to accommodate those visitors to Madison each year,” says Judy Frankel, spokeswoman for the Greater Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We’ll see lots of spending, especially in the evening when there is some client entertaining going on and lots of shuttles taking folks to and from the Verona campus.”

All told, the Epic meeting accounts for $6.8 million in direct visitor spending on lodging, food and other travel activity, according to the GMCVB.

By comparison, the World Dairy Expo counted over 70,000 visitors last year with $25.5 million in direct spending. The farm show is now ranked 26th in Trade Show News Network’s Top 250 Trade Shows in the U.S.

Epic attendees will get their own taste of the dairy scene. With a theme of “Down on the Farm,” the Tuesday night dinner in Verona includes a pie eating contest, tug-o-war and square dancing.

Save for three small evening receptions, all the events are held at the Epic campus. The company says hosting the event is key as it lets staff interact directly with customers.

In fact, of the 750 different conference sessions, 9 of 10 are presented by Epic customers themselves. Those sessions focus largely on sharing experiences on topics like productivity, patient engagement, analytics, population health and waste reduction.

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This year, the sessions will also address more advanced use of the technology, moving beyond basic installation of the systems to actual clinical projects that improve disease management and reduce costs.

“We’ve added a new session track that centers exclusively on using technology for better health outcomes,” says Epic’s Shawn Kiesau.

For many, the highlight of the event is the executive address on Tuesday morning that includes updates from company founder Judy Faulkner and president Carl Dvorak, among others.

On Wednesday morning, Dvorak will lead a presentation of called “Cool Stuff Ahead,” a more future-technology focused talk.

Both of those sessions will take place in the Deep Space auditorium, the 11,400 seat venue which was designed to be large enough to host the annual UGM. The event in the past has bounced between different venues including Monona Terrace, the Fluno Center and the Alliant Energy Center.

Epic Systems is the largest private employer in southern Wisconsin and the most successful IT company in the state. It counted revenues of $1.66 billion last year despite facing continued competition from Cerner Corp., which earlier this year acquired Siemens Health Systems in an effort to grow its market share.

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