Expo adds arts, farms to the mix

This year, in addition to perusing the booths of more than 100 businesses from across the region, attendees of the South Kingstown Chamber of Commerce’s third annual business-to-business expo will get to shop for fresh produce and shellfish at a small farmers’ market.

They will get to shop for art in a makeshift gallery and see theatrical performances, a fashion show, martial arts and self-defense presentations, belly-dancing, fitness and body conditioning classes – along with, of course, business-oriented seminars.

The idea is to recognize the role that arts and culture and other sectors play in the region’s economy, said Darlene Evans, president and CEO of the Chamber.

“I think that sometimes people don’t recognize the impact that businesses on all levels have in the community,” added Deedra Durocher, member advocate at the Chamber. “From the single-person, home-based business to the large corporation, as well as the artists, farmers and nonprofits, we’re all intertwined.”

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The expo, which takes place Oct. 3 from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the University of Rhode Island’s Ryan Center in Kingston, also will incorporate a hunger drive for which attendees and exhibitors are encouraged to donate nonperishable food items.

And it will incorporate an e-waste collection of unwanted electronics, including computers, fax machines, copiers, televisions and air conditioners. A fee of $2 per item will be charged for the collection, though some items might have a slightly higher fee.

“The objective is to make it convenient for cleaning out storage rooms, without adding to landfills those items that store hazardous waste,” Durocher said.

This year’s expo also is bigger than last year’s, which had 130 exhibitors from across the state and Connecticut and Massachusetts. Organizers predict a total of 160 exhibitors will participate. The Chamber is still accepting registration forms and fees ranging from $235 to $485 depending on location of the booth.

Evans said the reason the Chamber started the event three years ago was, in part, to take advantage of having a resource such as the Ryan Center in South County.

During the first expo, she said, “the need for an expo like this became very obvious.”

The objective is to build relationships between businesses in the region, but also expose them to those sectors sometimes not seen as major contributors to the economy, she said.

“The art and cultural communities do contribute to the economy as a whole, as well as the nonprofit community,” Durocher said. “They still need to be concerned with their bottom line.” •