OMAHA, Neb. - Part rock concert, part investment workshop, the annual gathering of Berkshire Hathaway shareholders is an odd mix.
But that's just how the faithful crowd of more than 30,000 who attended Saturday's version likes it.
Getting the chance to learn about business and life from Berkshire CEO Warren Buffett and spend the day with like-minded investors made it worthwhile to brave Saturday's cool, rainy weather in Omaha, Neb.
The level of appreciation shareholders have for Buffett becomes clear as he tours the meetings 200,000-square-foot exhibit hall each year.
Admirers held their cellphones and iPads in the air as they surrounded the billionaire Saturday. A pack of security guards created a buffer around Buffett as he visited displays selling Berkshire's See's Candy, explaining BNSF railroad's virtues and highlighting some of the company's other 80-plus subsidiaries.
Josh Miller, 11, of Maple Grove, Minn., couldn't see over the throng of people, reporters and cameras that moved through the exhibition floor crowd. But he knew who was at the center.
"Warren!" he called, holding up his iPad to get a shot of the Oracle of Omaha.
The Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting began humbly in 1982 with a crowd of 15 in an insurance company cafeteria. It has been growing steadily just as the company's stock price rose to become the most-expensive in the U.S., reaching $162,904 for a Class A share on Friday.
Now the meeting regularly fills Omaha's 18,300-seat arena and every nearby overflow room. Buffett likes to call it "Woodstock for Capitalists."
It's the one day of the year when the 82-year-old Buffett gets treated like a rock star while his friend Bill Gates, who serves on Berkshire's board, can wander through the crowd without much recognition.
Buffett again shared the stage this year with his 89-year-old business partner, Berkshire Vice Chairman Charlie Munger, to answer questions from shareholders, journalists and financial analysts for six hours.
Buffett said he thinks Berkshire will continue to thrive after he's gone because the company's employees and managers will resist any attempt to change the way it runs.
The U.S. economy should continue growing at a steady pace just as it has since the fall of 2009, Buffett said, but the Federal Reserve's efforts to stimulate growth are likely to eventually create inflation.
"We've encountered far worse problems than we face now," Buffett said. "This is not our toughest hour."