by Mike Knaak
In its first year at the Sartell Community Center, the Community Showcase drew a record crowd Saturday, Feb. 24.
More than 1,800 attended this year’s event compared with an average of about 1,300 in past years when the showcase was staged at Sartell Middle School, according to Nikki Sweeter of the Sartell Chamber of Commerce.
The event featured booths from more than 70 local businesses and organizations, filling the main gym while people on the walking track looked on from above.
“The best part is people are getting to see the community center. The business showcase is a great family event,” said Sonia Nordmann of the Sartell Chamber of Commerce.
“The Sartell chamber utilized the Sartell Community Center for exactly what it was intended to do and that is to bring businesses of Sartell, families of Sartell and our senior citizens together to learn more about each other and celebrate our amazing community,” Nordmann said.
Cabin fever, combined with curiosity, attracted a crowd of families.
“We come for the kids’ activities and to check out vendors. It’s nice to get information about businesses,” said Kate Bohn-Gettler. While she and her husband, Chris, watched their 5-year-old daughter burn off some energy playing a parachute activity organized by the Boys and Girls Club, their 10-month-old slept in a stroller.
Booths and displays featured entertainment geared toward children that included a costumed moose and a bear who posed for pictures while they roamed the hall drumming up business.
Many vendors handed out pencils and Frisbees in addition to brochures and business cards.
While most businesses aimed to connect with new customers, commerce was not the only reason to be there.
“I love that it’s a winter break where the community can get out and come together. I like being involved in community offerings that bring people together,” said the Rev. Doug Vagle, pastor at The Waters Church.
As people entered the gym, musicians from the Wirth Center for the Performing Arts greeted them. The musicians dressed in capes and masks added to the excitement.
“I get to meet businesses I don’t know about and didn’t know existed. I see people I know from the school and make connections with them,” said Chris Goering, music school executive director. “The showcase gives people a chance to ask about the school in an informal setting. They don’t need to make an appointment.”
As he greeted visitors stopping by his both, pastor Vagle observed, “People are cooped up inside and this is an opportunity to get out and be with people.”