Organizers hope a schedule change leads to a larger and more diverse crowd at the annual Cottage Grove Area Chamber of Commerce’s Business Showcase.
For the first time the Chamber is holding its showcase on a weekend. Organizers - and vendors - said that switching from a Thursday afternoon and evening to a Saturday will give families and people who work weekdays an opportunity to get out and learn about their local businesses.
“We know that as far as the attendees, it’s hard with families to go places in the evening,” Chamber office manager Colleen Stelmach said of the desire to reach a broader demographic in south Washington County.
The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, April 26, at the Cottage Grove Ice Arena, 8020 80th St. It’s free and open to the public. There are more than 70 vendors scheduled to participate.
In addition to switching days, Chamber organizers also extended the showcase from three to five hours. That was partly due to responses from vendors in past years who said they would like more time, said Sherry Wilwert of Edina Realty in Cottage Grove. Wilwert is co-chair of the Chamber’s membership committee and is helping to organize the showcase.
The move to Saturday is in line with how other cities run similar events. Business showcases or expos in Woodbury, Rosemount, Apple Valley and Hudson, Wis., all are on Saturdays, Stelmach said. Woodbury’s Business Expo is May 3 at East Ridge High School.
This year’s showcase will include a similar number of vendors but new entertainment and Cottage Grove food vendors. Entertainment will include 3M’s Visiting Wizards, who perform science tricks; Bruce the Bug Guy, who shows off insects and creepy critters; and a balloon artist. Some vendors also have games and entertainment for kids.
Famous Dave’s and Mississippi Dunes are new food vendors this year, Stelmach said. Applebees, Bella Pizza, Perkins, Bonngard’s Family Meats, Culvers and Luzette Catering also will have treats.
The first 500 people who arrive will receive a tote bag, and attendees who visit the event’s premier sponsors’ booths can get stamps on a card to enter in a raffle. Prizes include Minnesota Twins tickets, a high-definition TV, an Apple iPad Mini, car wash tickets and a one night stay at Country Inn and Suites.
The switch to Saturday should make the event more visible, Stelmach said. The showcase is a good way for people to learn about the businesses, community organizations and services in the Cottage Grove area, she said.
The event also is important for local businesses, Wilwert said.
“It’s huge exposure (and) name recognition,” she said.
The 2013 showcase drew about 1,200 people. Organizers hope to build on that this year.
“Hopefully it’s the right change and we can continue this on Saturday,” Wilwert said.