Plan B was well-received by vendors and attendees alike as the Okotoks and District Chamber of Commerce Trade Show took to the outdoors.
The annual trade show, which was initially scheduled for May but cancelled due to COVID-19, was transformed into an outdoor event in the Okotoks Recreation Centre parking lot on Sept. 26 with about 70 vendors and more than 1,000 visitors.
“I didn’t really know what to expect,” said Jayme Hall, executive director of the chamber. “But it’s been really great so far.”
By noon, about 600 people had walked through the front gate of the event to check out business and MarketSquare booths, he said.
The mild fall weather helped make it successful, he said.
While some vendors who were supposed to participate in May deferred their booking to May 2021, many came out to meet and greet the public, adhering to Alberta Health Services guidelines and maintaining physical distancing.
Each booth was set up at least six feet apart, and vendors were asked to wear masks if they were within six feet of visitors, he said. In addition, each booth had to provide hand sanitizer.
AHS did a walk-through of the event within its first two hours and gave the nod of approval, said Hall.
“They talked to a few vendors, maybe wanted to mention some things to them about the amount of space there were leaving between them and people,” he said. “It’s great they would come out and do that, to make sure vendors understand the important of distancing.”
He said following the guidelines means events can continue to occur in the community, although they may look different than past years.
“We want to provide a safe environment for the community, for people to come here and look around the market, visit the trade show vendors and feel like they’re safe,” said Hall.
Brenda McKinley, with FBC Insurance, said it was her first time signing up for the Okotoks trade show. She was supposed to be part of the original indoor event in the spring but was pleased to see the show happen in its new format.
The number of people out at the show was encouraging, she said.
“I’m not sure they’re all our target, but that’s okay,” said McKinley. “It’s just nice to get out and see people again, to do more business-to-business and see if we could get our name out in Okotoks a little bit more and get some exposure.”
Paul MacKillop, owner of Techucoat Alberta, had the same reasons for entering the trade show. The epoxy countertops he was showcasing are a new addition to his existing business, and he wanted to spread the word in a more face-to-face environment since it’s not a common product.
“You can’t beat a trade show, and I’m glad it’s an outdoor trade show so it’s not a complete lockdown and hazmat suits,” said MacKillop. “It’s been great, a lot of people have stopped by.”
As a local business, he’s trying to draw more attention to his services, which include installation of the countertops as well as teaching people how to install them at home.
Being at the trade show was a good way to drum up business, he said, because sometimes talking to someone or seeing the product up-close can help seal the deal.
“I have the van all decalled-up, but I find not as many people really pay attention to the side of the van when it’s driving as they do when it’s parked, so that’s the real key focus of being here today, is getting that business acknowledgement,” said MacKillop.
Robin Szuch, owner of Spectacle Blue Circus School, has been attending the trade show for years but wasn’t sure what to expect this year. Ordinarily, her booths include a trapeze rig, tightrope and juggling supplies to help draw visitors in, but none of that was allowed for this year’s event due to COVID restrictions.
“Because we’ve had all that stuff in the past I think people see us and remember, and they come talk to us,” said Szuch. “We’ve actually had four new registrations this morning and it’s only noon.”
She said some parents were surprised to hear the studio was still running, but changes to classes including individual training islands where no equipment is shared and limiting groups sizes to eight to accommodate spacing made it appealing to some new registrants.
“I’m really pleased with how the day is going and how the show is going,” said Szuch. “It’s really been positive for us.”