It's hard to imagine now, but Payson's annual Business Showcase wasn't always a popular attraction, Business Showcase Committee Chairman Judy Miller said.
"The first year it was held at the old Yellow Front store," she said. "I don't remember how many booths we had, but I do know we were giving them away."
There is one bit of local history that's not likely to repeat itself.
Now in its eighth year, the 2000 Business Showcase -- which will unfold in the old Wal-Mart building, as well as in a circus-sized tent out in the parking lot -- is all but sold out for its April 15 opening.
Janet Crane, manager of membership and events services for the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce, has a simple explanation for the event's continuing success. "Because it works," she said.
The concept is equally simple, she said.
"The whole idea is to promote and showcase our local businesses, and to make potential customers aware of their services," she said.
That concept worked so well last year, the event won the 1999 Governor's Award for Economic Development.
"(That's) certainly part of why exhibit space sells so quickly," Crane said. "But the main reason everybody should come and check it out is that, as always, there's going to be a lot of valuable information available, and there's no easier way to collect it than by attending the Business Showcase."
During Payson's first showcase, 800 to 1,000 visitors collected information, Miller said.
"Last year, we had close to 6,000, and for the past several years we've had to turn people away," she said.
For Business Showcase 2000, Miller said she expects at least 6,000 people to view the 93 booths -- 83 inside and 10 outside at last count.
Miller is one of two volunteers who have been on the eight-member Business Showcase committee from the beginning. The other is former chamber president Cliff Wilenbrecht.
"That committee is absolutely incredible," Crane said. "I'd like to clone them for everything I do."
But this event isn't strictly business. A good part of it is food, too.
This year, the vendors who've signed up to peddle their edibles are the Diamond Star Fire Department Auxiliary, Original Kettlecorn, Payson Youth Football Association, Boy Scout Troop 354 and the Knights of Columbus.
Booth setup is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. Friday, April 14, and must be completed by 4 p.m. that day. Booths need to be manned from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. that day, and from 8:45 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Saturday, April 15.
Judging for eight booth prizes will begin at 4 p.m. Friday. The categories will be Best Theme, Best Business Presentation, Best of Show, Judge's Pick, Committee's Pick, Media Pick, the People's Choice Award and Best Outside Booth.
All but two of the winners will be announced at a Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce mixer from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday. The People's Choice Award and Best Outside Booth winners will be announced Saturday.
For more information and exhibitor fee schedules, call Crane at 474-4515 or Miller at 474-8821.