The annual Rim Country Business Showcase has always offered a way for local shop owners to set up a booth and sell their products and services to the masses for one day.
This year’s event, held Saturday at the Mazatzal Hotel and Casino, had all the makings of a traditional showcase: balloons, floor-length displays, handouts and free pens, but it also had something new.
For the first time in the event’s 20-year history, students participated with their own booths.
The student booths offered a welcome addition to an event that drew 700 visitors to browse, gossip and get to know the 50 local businesses that set up booths. The showcase brimmed with possibilities, including Tonto Search and Rescue’s effort to raise money by raffling off a gleaming Arctic Cat, the sound of juicers, framers, roofers, solar tube makers, cowboy boot sellers and dozens of other local businesses. About 200 people attended the Rim Country Chamber of Commerce Mixer on Friday.
Judges rated the booths — as did the people who attended. The Best of Show award went to Bob’s Western Wear, Best Theme went to Prudential Arizona Realty and the People’s Choice Award went to PostNet.
The students also made a good show for their first Student Showcase.
Student groups from area schools participated, including two alternative high schools and several groups from Payson High School.
Playing on this year’s showcase theme, “Rim Country Business, Past, Present & Future,” PHS’s culinary arts students sold old-fashioned root beer floats, futuristic Dippin’ Dots ice cream and asked visitors to guess what the ice cream of the future would be like.
But more than selling ice cream, the event is a teaching tool, Gila County Schools Superintendent Linda O’Dell said.
Students developed what their booths would sell and hand out, designed any literature and posters and professionally delivered their message to showcase guests. Business owners go through a similar process.
“The idea is for them to understand what people have to go through to run a businesses,” she said.
O’Dell said schools need hands-on learning activities, known as inquiry-based, to develop higher levels of thinking and problem solving.
“We are really trying to change the culture of the classroom,” she said.
O’Dell added students must understand what it takes to make it in the world and develop those skills early “if we want them to compete in our community and globally. They are accountable for making their way in life,” but schools have the opportunity to help them make it there successfully.
Dylan Russo, a student at Payson Center for Success, said he was happy to have a chance to show people that students from alternative schools are “not all bad.”
PCS curriculum includes community service work and Russo heads the school’s leadership team.
“We want to change the image of the school,” he said. “We are not all dropouts and drug users.”
PCS’s booth included information on recent student activities, including the Turkey Trot, in which PCS students motivated elementary students during a run at the park.
At the Payson Education Center booth, another alternative school, students Amanda Petrie and Daniela Perez, met with showcase attendees, discussing the school as well as selling various fund-raising products.
Petrie said she enjoyed meeting with community members. The event not only boosted her confidence, it helped her see what business owners go through.
Bill Mallet, an instructional assistant at PEC, said events like this are great learning experiences.
“Knowing they can represent themselves and the school professionally gives them confidence,” he said.
PHS student Dillon Walker, who helped develop the student side of the showcase, said the event was a great way for taxpayers to see where their money is going in education.
Walker said he hopes students can participate every year.