WHEN I VISITED the annual Faribault Business Expo and Community Showcase for the first time on Thursday evening, I didn’t know quite what to expect.
“Surprised” best summarizes my reaction.
First, I am surprised to see so many vehicles encircling the Faribault Ice Arena, where the event is held. My husband and I even have to wait for a parking spot to open up.
Once inside, I am a bit overwhelmed by the rows of booths spread out before me. But you have to start somewhere, and I begin by accepting a still-warm chocolate chip cookie, a vendor freebie. Considering that I haven’t eaten supper, I wolf down the treat and a second cookie offered a few booths away.
Already I like this expo. But it gets better. A guy dressed in corny corn head-wear hands my husband a can of Spaghetti Rings. “She’ll take the beans,” he tells the Faribault Foods, Inc, rep and I’m handed a can of Butter Kernel green beans.
Now I’m looking for a cloth bag to carry my loot. I settle temporarily for a paper bag from the folks peddling hearing aids. Considering my ear specialist has told me I really need a hearing aid for my right ear, I talk to the hearing aid vendor for a few minutes, all the time straining to hear him above the buzz of conversation that fills this arena.
Then I move on to The Cheese Cave and introduce myself to Laura. I’ve blogged about Faribault Dairy Company’s specialty cheeses several times and am an enthusiastic promoter of the firm’s cave-aged blue and other cheeses. Simply put, I love this cheese. With three huge plates of St. Mary’s grass fed Gouda, St. Pete’s Select blue cheese and Fini, a sharp cheddar, laid out before me, I can’t resist spearing toothpicks into a cube of each.
I continue down the aisle, tossing bean bags until a vendor finally nudges my fifth bag into the hole and hands me a cloth bag. I tell him I’m not athletic. When he calls me a “good sport,” I feel my face flush.
Twice I try to putt a golf ball into a hole for other prizes that I can’t even recall now. I’m no Tiger Woods, not that I would want to be Tiger Woods.
And then, there’s Plinko. I’m excited about the State Bank of Faribault’s game patterned after The Price is Right Plinko board. I could win $100. But I don’t. I win a lint remover. My husband does better, winning a cooler of sorts that we can’t quite figure out.
All told, by the time we leave the expo, we have pens and pencils, can coolers, a mug, candy, pizza cutters, magnets, informational brochures, a note pad and those two cans of canned food.
Lest you think I’ve come simply for the freebies, you would be wrong. I talk to printers, a cell phone provider, journalists, the police chief, art center and rental center employees, a historian, a restaurateur, carpet cleaner, radio station personnel, bankers and friends.
Oh, and I register for a gazillion prizes.
The entire event impresses me and I expect I’ll return next year. Then, though, I hope to see some of the ethnic businesses that have become an important part of the Faribault community. I don’t recall seeing a single one at the expo.
And, I’m hoping too that another week night is chosen for this event. Some downtown Faribault businesses are open on Thursday evenings, and holding the expo on a Thursday excludes many of them.
There’s always room for improvement, including my need to work on my golf swing and tossing bean bags.
© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling