DeKALB – School was the last place Bruno Wilkerson, 7, and his 9-year old brother, Jordan, thought they’d be during spring break. But that’s exactly where their mother took the DeKalb boys for the annual Community Expo on Thursday night in the field house at DeKalb High School.
While the boys enjoyed the bouncy house the most, Jamie Hurst preferred all the free coupons, especially from the Midwest Museum.
“There’s a lot of stuff here for kids,” she said.
According to Rose Treml, executive director of the Sycamore Chamber of Commerce, which co-sponsored the event with the DeKalb Chamber, the expo is purposely scheduled for spring break.
“It gives the kids and their moms a chance to get out of the house,” Sycamore’s membership director Diane Breunlin said.
For years, Treml said the chambers hosted an expo for businesses only, but when someone suggested they open it to the public, they agreed. Since then, Treml said the number of participating businesses doubled as the attendance also increased dramatically, which is usually dependent on the weather.
“This is pretty much what we had last year,” she said, as she watched a steady flow of people casually browsing through several rows containing 125 booths. “Two years ago, it was 70 degrees and attendance was down.”
Matt Duffy, executive director of the DeKalb Chamber, agreed.
“Bad weather means a good turnout,” Duffy said.
Besides allowing businesses to share ideas, Duffy said the expo allows the public to check out businesses they might not otherwise get to, see what local nonprofits have to offer and – one of the most popular features – sample a wide variety of free food, including mini-sandwiches, salads, scalloped corn, pretzels, cookies and cupcakes.
The snacks were one of the things 12-year-old Morgan and Addie Heinisch, 9, of DeKalb liked the most, while their mother, Kim, said she just liked to “walk around and see what is here.”
“It’s a great experience to see the booths and everything,” Shadow Gentry of DeKalb agreed. Like many others, he used it as a social event, greeting numerous people he knew either in the aisles or working the booths.
For Jim and Susan Colgan of Genoa, who were checking it out for the first time, they were surprised by the wide variety of sponsors.
The couple agreed the expo was a good way to get out of the house “and beat the winter blues.”