Local Business Expo ’17 ends trade show hiatus in Winchester, draws over 800

Susan Marriner of Marriner Design (left), with Brenda Norman of Monkland, at Local Business Expo '17 in Winchester. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

WINCHESTER — Local Business Expo 2017 was met with positive reviews and good crowds on Saturday, with a conservatively estimated 800 to 900 people turning out for the first full-out trade show at Winchester’s Joel Steele Community Centre in — as it turns out — 20 years.

Attendance exceeded North Dundas Chamber of Commerce President Rachel Potvin’s 500-person benchmark when planning for show began barely four months ago.

Potvin said organizers stopped counting after the number through the main doors hit 600, describing the event as an “amazing” and “huge” success in a Facebook post thanking Chamber volunteers and the Township of North Dundas.

The township bought into the concept early, helped out with special in-person registration of exhibitors at municipal headquarters, and cut the Chamber a break on facility rental costs. Staff members also assisted throughout the day on Saturday.

Admission to the event was free but wristbands were used to gauge attendance.

Mayor Eric Duncan, who helped out at the main admission table when the doors opened, said that 500 bracelets were dispensed by 11:30 a.m., two-and-a-half hours into the 9-hour show. “I’m going to say 800 or 900 people showed up today,” the smiling mayor estimated as the 6 p.m. closing hour approached.

Among the exhibitors, the Expo seemed to tap a pent-up demand for such an event. Many of the businesses on scene didn’t exist the last time the Winchester arena building hosted a show of similar magnitude (estimated at 1997 by veteran local realtor Butch Oldford, whose Team Oldford booth proved popular with a wine giveaway at the 2017 edition.)

“Traffic’s been amazing,” said Bridals by Al-Mor proprietor Kim Carruthers of her first trade show in Winchester. “It’s been very good.”

“It was an awesome show for us,” said Peter Vanderlind of Storm Internet. The local broadband firm, which provided free industrial strength WiFi for the Expo, was among nearly 80 exhibitors occupying both floors of the arena building. Vanderlind counted a pair of smart farms, two larger businesses plus “two dozen” potential residential customers among the leads generated for Storm at the show.

“I’ve heard nothing but praise on how well it was executed,” he said of the Expo.

Trevor Watters of Watters Financial Group Inc. noticed “great interest and support” for his booth at the event. “And we’ve made new friends” by being here, he added.

“The traffic has been great,” said Rick Buffham of RB Heating Climate Care. “This area has been missing a show like this for a long time…. I think it’s been a very positive thing.”

The Expo was also flavoured by food, entertainment and the North Dundas arts community. The upstairs hall featured a stage with musical performers, while the main stage downstairs hosted various business demonstrations, fashion shows and dance performances.

Members of the Chamber executive are expected to meet soon for a debriefing on the Expo and potential next steps.

Below, a gallery of additional images from Local Business Expo ’17.

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