OMAHA, Neb. -- The crowd at this year's Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting is likely to top 40,000 as the company marks 50 years of Warren Buffett's leadership.
Berkshire investors routinely fill Omaha's downtown arena and overflow rooms at the conference center and a hotel across the street for the meeting. The main attraction at the event is Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger answering questions for several hours.
Besides the Q-and-A session, Berkshire is planning some special attractions to celebrate this year.
Not long before the arena doors open at 7 a.m. on May 2, a couple executives at Berkshire's Justin Boot subsidiary will ride two Texas longhorns down the street ahead of a Wells Fargo stagecoach, which is fitting since Berkshire is the bank's largest shareholder.
"Berkshire already markets planes, trains and automobiles. Adding steers and stagecoaches to our portfolio should seal our reputation as America's all-purpose transportation company," Buffett joked.
While Buffett and Munger answer questions during the Saturday meeting, some of Berkshire's more than 80 subsidiaries - including Justin Boots, See's Candy, Brooks Running, Fruit of the Loom, Forest River RVs, BNSF railroad and Geico - show off and sell their products.
For the first time, that exhibit hall will be open to shareholders on Friday afternoon for shopping this year. Buffett said that last year 1,385 pairs of Justin boots, 13,440 pounds of See's candy and 7,276 pairs of Wells Lamont gloves were sold during last year's meeting.
Robert Miles, who has written three books on Berkshire Hathaway, said interest in this year's shareholder meeting is strong. His value investing conference that's held just before the meeting sold out in mid-January.
Berkshire's track record of beating the S&P 500 in 39 out of the last 50 years offers plenty of reason to celebrate even if the company fell short of the market again last year. The company's size makes it harder to continue significantly outperforming.
"The secret to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders' happiness in the next 50 years is for them to have low expectations of 1 or 2% better than the market," Miles said.
In his annual letter released Saturday, Buffett urged shareholders to check out Airbnb's website if they are having trouble finding one of Omaha's 14,000 hotel rooms that routinely fill up when the meeting is held on the first weekend in May.
Buffett said the house-sharing service Airbnb is making a special effort to sign up people in Omaha willing to rent part or all of their homes.
Buffett, who has long been reluctant to invest in technology companies because it's hard to predict which ones will thrive, doesn't have a stake in Airbnb. But he said he hopes Airbnb can help shareholders who don't want to pay for the three-night minimum stays some hotels require.
Berkshire Hathaway Inc. owns roughly 80 subsidiaries, including utility, furniture and jewelry firms. The company also has major investments in such companies as Coca-Cola Co. (KO - Get Report), IBM (IBM - Get Report) and American Express (AXP - Get Report).