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No Town Trade Show This Year

New similar event possible for October

Citing negative feedback and dwindling numbers, the Outlook & District Chamber of Commerce elected not to hold the annual trade show at the Jim Kook Rec Plex this spring, but the hope is that a new event targeted for later this fall will encourage business owners both big and small to come together for a street fair-type atmosphere that puts a focus on local businesses.

Michael Stushnoff, President of the Chamber of Commerce, said the decision not to have the trade show came down to looking at the pros and cons, with Chamber members concerned over going through the trouble of organizing the vast event only for the payoff to be minimal.

“We had a few meetings about this, and we were looking at opportunities that we have with the town and with the trade show itself, and it came down to mixed messages over whether we were going to do the show again or not,” said Stushnoff.  “There were a lot of emotions around the pros and cons as far as doing it.”

Those cons include a depleting number of registered vendors each year, while other business owners were no longer seeing the value in attending the trade show.  There were also concerns about the costs of registering, and there was also a feeling that the event needed to be more focused on the business side instead of being a family-centric atmosphere.

“With depreciating number of vendors at the trade show each and every year, and as the numbers were going down, the feedback was that a lot of businesses no longer felt the value in attending,” said Michael.  “Not all businesses felt that way, though.  Others wanted it to be a more business-centric focus rather than a family fun day, sort of like the Home Show at Prairieland Park where they have a stage and presenters.  So the depreciating numbers and the number of people that were coming out played a large roll in that.”

In recent times, the Outlook & District Chamber of Commerce, which Stushnoff says is looking at reinforcing the ‘district’ part of their name, has grown with an injection of youth and new ideas, which some say has been needed for quite some time.  Sub committees have been created within the group that look after a number of different events, such as the awards committee that is working on the Community Appreciation Awards Night banquet for the end of the month, as well as other groups that look after other events, such as the Santa Claus Day from this past December.

Stushnoff says those new ideas and perspectives help get everyone involved in their community.

“We have a young and diverse bunch of people that are attending our meetings on a regular basis,” he said.  “There was a time when it was only Ken, Justin, Jocelyne, Lyle and I that would be the only ones there.  So we have these younger people coming; AG Foods is very involved, as is the Co-op and Jacq'y Jaye's; and we now have these younger and more diverse opinions on what we can do as far as something different from the trade show.”

The trade show, which managed to reach its 10th edition last April, may not be on the schedule for 2017, but Stushnoff says the Chamber is in the early stages of planning an event for this October that puts a focus on what Outlook has to offer.

“What’s been discussed is something similar to what Delisle does each year, where they have a town fair kind of event,” he said.  “What we’re looking at doing in October, which is the tentative time for the event, is close off perhaps part of the street and have vendors outside where they get to show off their business.  You walk through part of the town and the businesses are right there, and you also have a chance to meet your neighbors.  We haven’t had a formal meeting about the plans yet, which we have to get on the ball about, but it’s something where you’d get to go into each business and see what they’re all about.  Some new vendors may want to get involved and make it a little more different.”

The outdoor event would essentially take much of what people enjoyed about the trade show and make the town and local business owners the central focus.  Stushnoff seems excited about the prospects of the event, and says it would give businesses a chance to get up close and personal with their neighbors and customers in a fun, outdoor environment.

“The goal would be to make it a day to enjoy, and we’re aiming for probably a Saturday in October,” said Michael.  “It gives businesses a chance to shine and be there in front of their doors.  It’s not necessarily about growing their business that day, but it’s about showing people that we’re here and proud to be part of the community.”

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