EATON — Despite the rainy Saturday afternoon, this year’s annual Preble County Chamber of Commerce Business Expo was a huge success, according to organizers. The event took over the Preble County Fairgrounds Expo Building Friday and Saturday, April 13-14, giving area businesses a chance to get themselves out in front of the public and talk to those they’re serving.
The event included a wide variety of businesses, nonprofits, service groups and local organizations. Vendors included lawn, garden and landscaping companies, insurance and banking institutions, home repair and improvement businesses, healthcare, animals, automobiles, technology and marketing companies — and much more.
At press time, final attendance numbers had not yet been tallied for Saturday, but nearly 400 people visited on Friday evening alone. Approximately 100 vendors displayed their services and products – a major percentage of them members of the Chamber of Commerce and hometown Preble County businesses.
According to Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Leslie Collins, the Expo also attracts out-of-county businesses looking to promote themselves to Chamber members, Preble County residents, and other businesses.
She added, “So far, feedback has been positive. Several vendors have shared they believe this was the best Preble County Chamber of Commerce Business Expo they’ve attended. That’s something the Chamber Board of Directors and Expo Committee can definitely be proud of. The committee will be meeting soon to review this year’s event, and will be discussing ways we can continue to improve the Expo each year.”
Booth spaces sold out early this year, providing much to do for visitors to the Expo. As always, there were plenty of chances to win prizes with the annual raffles and giveaways. Grand prize for this year’s raffle, sponsored by LCNB National Bank, was a laptop computer. Almost every booth had candy, pens, or other items people could pick up for free. While this always makes the Expo a grand time for all, this year there was something new specifically for the kids.
New this year was a “Kids Corner” with activities for children, which was sponsored by Safari Junction and Community of Faith Church. From encounters with Safari Junction’s exotic animals to crafts and balloons from church volunteers, there was lots to see and do.
While it was named “Kids Corner,” it was certainly fun for all ages to snuggle with baby goats and play with a lemur.
For parent Russell Hoskins, it was his first year ever attending the Preble County Business Expo.
“We’ve been wanting to come for the last three or four years. This is our first chance out here and we have an interest in helping with Habitat for Humanity and the HIT Foundation. We really came here to focus on that,” he said. “This has been great so far. We were able to network with Habitat for Humanity and look forward to volunteering with them in the future.
“I think this is a great place for people to meet other people in the county,” Hoskins said. “It gets you involved more with the community. There are a lot of connections and friendships to be made here.”
Expo attendee Donna Gonzalez said, “They always have fun exhibits here and you can really learn a lot about things you can do to your house, how to improve it. We try to come out every year, because it’s interesting. They have more exhibits this year and we enjoy walking around talking to different people.
“It was great being over at all the medical booths and being able to talk to all the girls over there. A couple years ago I actually found my foot doctor here, so I love that they come to the Expo. Everyone should keep coming back, because it’s really lots of fun. We will keep coming every year.”
As for learning different things to improve one’s home, there were many different lawn care companies sharing their services. One of those companies was Fitzwater Tree and Lawn Care.
Salesman Mark Lipps said, “We do anything from tree trimming, to landscaping, to patios, about anything you really need. We don’t do much concrete work, but we do some drainage and things like that. We take care of Silfex and Henny Penny. We’re here at the Expo to support the community and see if anybody needs anything. This is the second or third year we’ve been here. I like that we get to talk to a lot of different people and hear what their needs are.”
On the nonprofit side of things, the Preble County Parks District and Preble County Historical Society noted, they enjoy the Expo, because many people don’t know their organizations even exist. It gives them an opportunity to talk to the public and share information about the services they provide.
Parks Commissioner J. Stephen Simmons said, “We’re here to promote the Preble County Park District. We are located north of Lewisburg, before you get to West Senora. We have a place there and we also have a park at Devil’s Backbone. We want people to know that we are offering lots of programs for everyone and we have walking trails, all to promote nature and what we can do here in Preble County to preserve nature.
“There are not a lot of people who know that we have a Preble County Park District. This is a great opportunity to get the word out and tell people what we do. We want people to bring their families to some of our programs and to get involved.”
Historical Society Executive Director Misti Spillman said, “We’ve come to the Expo every year since I’ve been a part of the Historical Society, so going on three years. It is a way to get our name out to the community and let them know what is going on with our events coming up and so forth. We can let them know what all we’re working on. A lot of people don’t know that there is a Preble County Historical Society. We can also let them know what we do, other than being a nonprofit. It is really about educating the kids on history.
“The Expo is good for networking and collaborating with other organizations and it is really a great opportunity to make contacts. Even though the weather has been bad, it has still been a great turn out.”
Collins added, “This year’s Expo wouldn’t have been possible without a great group of volunteers, including Tim Gebhart of Business Design Guys, who chaired the committee and continues to put in countless hours on planning and organizing. I also have to thank Dean Wigger with the Preble County Fairgrounds, who tirelessly helped pull out tables and chairs – and even buckets when the rain started falling on Saturday. The Expo wouldn’t have been as great without Dean and Tim and the entire committee’s help in setting up and tearing down.
“I have to also give a big thanks to our grand sponsors, including Wallace Heating & Air, Preble County Safety Council, Fidelity Health Care, Reid Health, Kettering Health Network and the Preble County Agricultural Society. We actually have several sponsor levels. Expo Sponsors included Lawn Plus, Eagle Fence & Construction, Boone’s Power Equipment, Koenig Equipment, Quaker Trace Tractor, Inc., Brubaker Grain, Larkin Cobb Chevrolet Buick GMC, Preble County Sheriff’s Office, Safari Junction and Gillman Home Center. Event Sponsors included Fitzwater Tree & Lawn and GMT Roofing, and advertising sponsors included Brewer Broadcasting-KICKS 96 and WEDI Real Roots Radio.
“I also have to thank Community of Faith Church and Safari Junction for making Kids’ Corner a happening place for young and old. Everyone loved the animals, and children loved the balloons and crafts.”
Stay tuned for a better Expo next year. “We’re already planning ahead to next year, so stay tuned for the 2019 Business Expo,” Collins said. “I’m looking forward to helping put together another one bigger and better than this year.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH