WATERVILLE  — The atmosphere was upbeat Thursday as crowds perused the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce’s Business to Business Showcase, where 140 vendors touted their offerings and networked with each other and the public.

The annual event, held at the Colby College Field House, was a smashing success by all accounts.

“We’re really excited this year,” said Kelly Smith, the chamber’s program assistant. “We have 140 exhibitors and we have new exhibitors this year. People have really put a lot of thought and energy into their booth space. It’s really creative.”

Reflected in a computerized mirror, Michael Vear, of Skowhegan Savings Bank, shows Darlene Theriault the variety of images the device can produce during the Business to Business Showcase held Thursday at Colby College in Waterville. About 140 area businesses showed off their goods and services. Morning Sentinel photo by David Leaming

Smith was moving among the flow of visitors and vendors, who had come not only from central Maine, but also from as far north as Bangor. She said exhibitors were happy to see each other and were interacting and making plans to connect after the show.

Colby, one of the show’s major sponsors, offered the space free of charge.

“They go out of their way to make this very accessible and are so helpful,” Smith said.

Caroline Toto-Lawrence, owner of Caring Hands, a home care business on Main Street in Fairfield that employs 30-plus people, was exhibiting Thursday for the first time at the show. She said the flow of people to her booth was fairly steady, and she had been handing out literature about what her company offers.

“Oh, I love it,” she said of the show. “I’m going to do it again next year.”

Nonprofit organizations also were exhibiting. Waterville Creates!, Waterville Public Library, Waterville Opera House, Colby College Museum of Art, the Maine Film Center and Common Street Arts had a mega-arts presence at the show with four booths, side by side, that helped spread awareness about all sorts of projects, including the redesign of Castonguay Square in downtown Waterville and the upcoming Opera House show “The Wizard of Oz,” which opens April 5.

A show cast member, Jeralyn Shattuck, was floating around dressed in a Wicked Witch of the West costume and speaking in character with a high-pitched voice. With her face painted green and a black, pointed witch’s hat atop her head, she laughed wickedly.

Nate Towne, marketing director for Waterville Creates!, said the interest in the booths was heavy Thursday.

“We absolutely love the Business to Business Showcase, and I think that a lot of people might not understand that nonprofit arts organizations are here,” he said. “It is an amazing place to meet potential sponsors of shows for the Opera House and the film festival, and we stand out. We have a fun booth. It’s a great way to spend six hours, and the people here are fantastic.”

Cris Evers gets ready to toss a key into a cup held by a cardboard cutout of Chris Gaunce, of Central Maine Motors, during the Business to Business Showcase held Thursday at Colby College in Waterville. More than 130 area businesses showed off their goods and services.  Morning Sentinel photo by David Leaming

The showcase’s major sponsors were Are You Ready to Party?, Central Maine Motors Auto Group,  Central Maine Growth Council, Kennebec Savings Bank, Colby, Maine Technology Group, MaineBiz, Maine State Credit Union, Northern Light Inland Hospital and Skowhegan Savings Bank.

Tamsen Brooke Warner, executive director of the Opera House, was standing at a colorful booth where a machine spit out tiny bubbles that floated through the air. She said the showcase is a great networking event and venue for showcasing the Opera House. Visitors also could purchase tickets to “The Wizard of Oz” there, she said.

“That’s the great part about our ticketing system. We can take it anywhere we want,” she said.

Vendors offered all sorts of free items to visitors, including pens, candy, keychains, cupcakes, reusable shopping bags, cookies and coffee.

Fairfield Town Manager Michelle Flewelling and Town Councilor Peter Lawrence, who also serves on the town’s economic community development committee, were greeting visitors at the Fairfield booth. Lawrence, the husband of Caroline Tot0-Lawrence, also is a human resources specialist supporting the Maine Army National Guard and Air National Guard.

Flewelling said that in the past, the town’s booth focused on activities such as the trails system and now is focusing on business issues including the town’s facade improvement and marketing program.

“It’s for Fairfield businesses, and the way that it works is, it has a potential for 50 percent reimbursement of a project up to $25,000 for a face improvement or 50 percent reimbursement for the marketing assistance program,” she said.

She said the facade program is not limited to the downtown and can be for any business within the municipality.

Bruce Harrington, chairman of the chamber’s Business to Business Showcase Committee, was happy with the turnout of vendors and visitors Thursday.

“I think things are going great,” he said. “We’ve had good volume and a lot of people come though — a lot of new faces, which is really exciting. We’re just really happy with the turnout.”

He said the showcase, open to all chamber members for exhibiting, was being held from noon to 6 p.m. and was just a couple vendors shy of being sold out. Visitors from the public were welcome, free of charge.

 

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

 

 

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