NORTHBRIDGE, Mass. – Do you claim to have the best clam chowder recipe in the Valley? Put it to the test.
Are you planning to replace windows this year? Do you need a new roof? Are you interested in adopting a dog? Do you like games, music, and having fun?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, the place to be on Saturday, March 3 is Northbridge High School for the 14th annual Blackstone Valley Home & Business Expo sponsored by the Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce.
The expo is one of the most popular events in the Valley, said Chamber President Jeannie Hebert, drawing thousands of visitors every year.
It’s a unique event because it isn’t just business related. It draws together local businesses, community organizations and non-profits. Bringing together all facets of the rural region works, Hebert said.
The Blackstone Valley Chamber was singled out for praise at a New England Chamber conference, and a Chamber in New Hampshire is interested in using the BV Expo as a model for one of its own.
“We took it as a great compliment,’’ she said.
Every year since the beginning the Expo has had more than 100 booths offering a wide variety of services, information and entertainment.
“It’s a fundraiser for the Chamber,’’ Hebert said, “but the day itself is a lot of fun,” from Bobo the Clown and his family making balloon animals to Unibank’s “Big Wheel of Prizes’’ to the talking fire truck from the Northbridge Fire Department.
Bobo donates every center made at the Expo to the Make a Wish organization and “participants are enthusiastic because they write more business and get more leads.’’
Karen Mercure, a Realtor from the Mercure Group of Douglas, “always has an extremely innovative booth. She starts in November when she picks a theme,’’ Hebert noted. This year, on the Chamber’s website, Mercure has videos with seven tips on how to make booths more inviting.
Among the booths this year, the Chamber welcomes back the Iron Shoe petting zoo, the Celtic Fiddler, Family Karate, Dog Orphans, and Southwick Zoo which brings to display whatever baby animal was born at the zoo over the winter months.
State and local politicians will be on hand, Hebert said, and some may be celebrity judges for the “Famous Chowder Cook-off’’ which is always a big draw. “We changed it to chili one year,’’ she said, but it wasn’t nearly as successful.
“It’s not just business to business. You see friends and neighbors; do some business and look for deals. There are special deals to take advantage of,’’ Hebert said.
The deadline for entries into the Chowder Fest is Friday, Feb. 17.
It isn’t necessary to be a Chamber member to rent an Expo booth. Costs range from $100 for the community pavilion to $750 for a non-member double booth. Businesses usually cover the cost of non-profit booths, Hebert said.