By BETH ALTENA
The EXPO doesn’t lie. It just doesn’t know who it is talking to. According to Rockford Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Linda Southwick, it is guaranteed, for sure, absolutely going to happen that one lucky person will win an all-expenses paid two person trip to Mexico paid for by the Chamber from Antor Travel and Apple Vacations. Plus, four people will win $500 in cash. Plus, if you aren’t one of those fortunate five, you are guaranteed not to leave empty-handed.
Hundreds of booths will be staffed by many hundreds of friendly people who work and live right here in West Michigan, all happy to offer some sort of goodie—a tree seedling, candy, pen, awesome drawings, such as free trips, free services, games with prizes, samples and of course, once again A Taste of Rockford with Flo’s, Uccello’s and Candlestone Inn offering delicious tastes from their kitchens for tickets which sell for a dollar each.
The eleventh annual Rockford Community EXPO is slated for Saturday, March 21 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Rockford High School. Amazing, you think. What does it cost to get into this wonderous event? It’s free.
The best thing about the annual EXPO, besides all the great people to see and things to do, is that each EXPO is different and you never know what might be happening. Absolutely you will see Rockford’s fine public safety officers and there are always other local law enforcement members with stickers for the kids and a talking, lively mascot. At the first one a pair of local businessmen teamed up to try to beat the Guinness Book of World Records by grilling the largest every burger.
Entertainment is all day and top quality. Local celebrities MC the event from beginning to end. This year’s line-up is Andy Rent, Chuck LaTour, Michelle DeSelms and Juliet Dragos. Rockford students will perform for you from the stage in the gymnasium, ending with the Rockford High School Jazz Band.
This year again there will be a dozen and one selling booths, where visitors can buy products, goods or services, including the Rockford Lions taking orders for hams. The wide range of service and product providers will highlight what a talented and diverse group of businesses are located right here in our own community. It is a chance to see the people who own shops here, who offer all types of services and sell all sorts of things.
And the giveaways are great, not the least of which are the four chances to be a $500 cash winner (you must be present to win) throughout the day. At this point the Chamber has given away a whopping total of $22,000 and this year will put the grand total to $24,000. And the trip to Mexico will, as noted earlier, go to someone.
Last year Ryan Martin was the lucky winner. All smiles, he said, “I’m going with my mom!” That is another story in itself, and more evidence of how lucky we all are to have such a vibrant and active Rockford Chamber of Commerce. Ryan was right about going with his mom, but it ended up even better than that. After Ryan won the big prize at EXPO 2014, the family decided they all should go together for a once-in-a-lifetime picture-perfect vacation. It took a little work, selling the original trip to other family members and re-arranging a destination. But it ended up being all they had dreamed it would be and more.
“We felt like kings and queens for a week!” said mom Lisa Beeridge. “We did watersports every day, the food was amazing, the weather was gorgeous.” She said this was the only trip together the family ever took with the exception of one trip to Florida. She never thought they would be able to have such an amazing experience together. “We felt like rich people for a week.” And to top it all off, while they were in Mexico, she and her husband Kevin, had their twelfth wedding anniversary. Perfect!
As promised a year ago, Ryan and his mom Lisa showed up at the Squire office with pictures of the amazing vacation, just in time to run with this year’s EXPO story. Instead of pictures of last year’s EXPO we gave you pictures of the Berridge family vacation in an all-inclusive resort in beautiful Mexico. Thank you, EXPO. We can’t wait to see pictures from the next lucky winner’s trip.