By RENEE FITE
More than 40 vendors, offering everything from haircuts to banking, from back massages to goat cheese, set up shop Saturday at the third annual Tahlequah Business Expo.
Hosted by the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Class 14, the event, held at the Northeastern State University Herb Rozell Ballroom, gave area residents a chance to browse through services and businesses, while chatting with friends and meeting new people.
Proceeds from the $2 admission tickets will help fund the leadership class’s key project, a community splash pad. Entertainment featured members of the First Baptist Church choir, accompanied by Holly Stocks.
Charles Deason, member of the Tahlequah Leadership 14 class and co-owner of Redmen Office Supply, said the group pledged to host the Expo annually until it reaches its fundraising goal for the project.
“This lets people in the community experience some of the local businesses all at one time,” Deason said. “You may not know they’re in town, and can see what they offer. I discovered A Bloom is more than flowers; it has furniture.”
Trena Payton, Arvest Bank employee and a member of Tahlequah Leadership Class 14, helped set up the silent auction.
“It brings the community out,” Payton said. “All the exhibitors bring a silent auction item, as well as a door prize for their booths.”
David Nagel and his son, Joseph, were among the first visitors.
“It’s a great way for the community to interact with the businesses and civic organizations in town,” said Nagle. “We’re new to the area; my wife took a position at NSU. This is a great event; it gives us an opportunity to see what’s here and learn about services, like recycling and health care options. I’m surprised there are so many vendors here.”
Scott Rosenthal, assistant vice president of physician services at Tahlequah City Hospital and CEO for NeoHealth, is coordinator for the Expo. He was pleased with the participation.
“There is a chance for great door prizes and silent auction items,” Rosenthal said. “And there are a lot of first-time exhibitors, too. Canyon Ridge Farms has goat cheeses, with so many flavors. My favorite is honey almond. RJ’s Salon is doing haircuts; you can get a chair massage, and you can get your cholesterol checked, all for the price of an admission ticket.”
Rosenthal was impressed Mayor Jason Nichols took time out to man a booth, allowing local residents to ask him questions.
“How many mayors would do this? It speaks volumes about our community; we’re lucky to have him,” Rosenthal said.
The mayor visited with citizens of all ages and interests – including two children, Rozalyn and Claire Houston, while giving them plastic firefighter hats and pencils that change colors. Their mom, Jamie Corn, thinks the Business Expo is a great idea.
“I like seeing all the different businesses. The Farmers’ Market has goat cheese; it was wonderful,” Corn said.
Nichols said he believes it’s important to interact with the public whenever the opportunity arises.
“I talk about everything from this massive [city] code book to the process of renting the Armory [Municipal Center],” Nichols said. “We relish the chance to explain those things to the people.”
Mary Pat Rosenthal, with Carter Healthcare and Hospice, and Linda Cheatham, Habitat for Humanity executive director, were both looking for volunteers for their organizations.
“I work on the hospice side, with volunteers,” Rosenthal said. “An event like this is always good for small towns, for people to get out and find a business they didn’t know was here, and it’s good for vendors to get acquainted. It’s also a fundraiser, so it’s a win-win-win situation for everyone.”
She said a notable difference in this year’s event is the diversity of vendors.
At the Habitat for Humanity booth, Cheatham and volunteer Tonya Smith were visiting.
“It’s a good event; it lets the community know what projects we’re working on,” Cheatham said. “And it’s an opportunity to meet people and for them to sign up to volunteer, and advertise the Habitat Surplus Store. We take donations of household items and building supplies and resell them at a discount, and use the profits for building houses.”
Smith said it’s fun to volunteer.
“It gets me out of the house,” said Smith. “I meet people, learn new skills, and give back to the community.”
Tony Ward, marketing director for Go Ye Village, and Deena Hill, Go Ye Health Services administrator, were chatting with visitors.
“It’s good networking opportunity for all the businesses, as well as giving us a chance to explain the benefits we give to the community,” Ward said.
Hill found information useful in her work.
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