What will likely be the most exciting element of the upcoming Business Showcase 2002 is a secret, according to Judy Smith, administrative assistant of the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce.
In fact, it's so secret that not even Smith knows what it will be.
"It will probably be the display by Plant Fair Nursery and the Xeriscape Council, but they won't even tell me what it is," Smith said. "It's supposed to be really something."
There are other planned surprises that Smith can reveal about the Saturday, April 27, event which this year has been given a south-of-the-border theme and will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. inside and outside a 16,000-square-foot tent in the parking lot of the Rim Country Mall.
For one thing, local entrepreneurs have been snatching up booth space faster than ever in the showcase's 10-year history. The 77 inside booths are already sold out, Smith said, but there are still a couple of uncovered spaces available among the 20 which line the tent's outside perimeter and Highway 260.
Co-presented by the chamber and the Tonto Apache Tribe/ Mazatzal Casino, the Business Showcase has traditionally provided the best and easiest way for Rim country residents to discover what's new on the local business front, power-chat with the area's entrepreneurial experts, and take home material and information on everyday products and services.
The concept works so well that in 1999, the event won the Governor's Award for Economic Development.
In its debut year 10 years ago, the area's premier annual business event attracted 800 to 1,000 visitors. During the past three years, the number has held steady at around 6,000. For 2002, Smith said, "We're planning more people than ever."
The Business Showcase's annual post-opening attraction the mixer will this year be sponsored by Jackson White Attorneys at Law and KMOG Radio. Set for 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, April 26, this portion of the festivities is, as always, reserved for chamber members and exhibitors only. Booths will be open during the mixer.
For everyone else, the fun and knowledge-gathering begins the next morning, when the booths will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Among the new businesses and first-time exhibitors attendees will encounter, Smith said, are Sunrise Chiropractic, Arizona State Savings and Credit Union, KMOG, Paintless Dent Repair, Foster Creek Llamas, Cruise Port, Curves for Women, and Just Makin Juice.
"There's even going to be a Tupperware booth. We've never had one of those before. And Messenger Funeral Home will be there, too," she said.
There will also be a trio of food booths, courtesy of the Diamond Star Fire Department, Original Kettlekorn, and the Payson Community Christian School.
Judging for eight inside-booth prizes will begin at 4 p.m. to 5 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. Winners will be announced at the mixer. The People's Choice Award and Best Outside Booth winners will be announced Saturday near the close of the event.
New to the competition this year is a sombrero decorating contest, for which exhibitors were given south-of-the-border-style hats by the chamber.
The participant who invests the greatest amount of creativity in decorating a sombrero to reflect his or her business will win a two-night stay at the Plaza Las Glorias Hotel in Puerto Penasco, Mexico. The winner of this contest will be announced Saturday at 10:30 a.m.
For more information, exhibitor fee schedules and information on booth availability, call Smith at 474-4515.