Undead insurance agents joined others dressed for safari, while bankers in scrubs and doctors’ coats offered financial checkups at Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce’s 32nd Business Expo Tuesday.
The annual expo drew nearly 100 businesses of many kinds — from pest control companies and carpet retailers to an artisanal bakery — to booths inside the Anniston City Meeting Center. Not all of those in the booths were costumed, but many were; an appearance at the exhibit, representatives of several enterprises said, is the cost of doing business here.
It’s a debt paid with a day of lighthearted fun, time many said they were willing to give for the chance to network with and be seen by other area business owners.
“We have to be here,” said Audrey Maxwell, marketing coordinator for AOD Federal Credit Union. “It’s a given.”
Maxwell, along with other credit union staffers near the front of the meeting center, wore khaki fatigues and metallic-looking backpacks.
The women were, patches on their arms informed passers-by, the Rate Busters — a send-up of the recent all-female Ghostbusters movie.
As many as 2,000 people were expected to browse booths like the one Maxwell occupied Tuesday, organizers with the chamber said, getting an opportunity to form new business relationships.
“People do business with people they know,” said chamber manager Linda Hearn.
Entrance to the expo for those without a business participating was $25, and some paid that price, though the expo is mostly intended to bring business interests together.
“It could be a carpet seller reaching out to credit unions,” Bridgette Magouirk, vice chair of business development for the chamber, said Tuesday in the center’s lobby.
Businesses this year had overflown the center’s largest room, where most of the gimmicky action happened: the costumes, free promotional items, and a game of Family Feud organized by New Leaf Marketing and Abbey Carpet & Floor could be found here.
Food could be found, too, and lots of it. Eighteen local eateries had booths this year, Hearn said, and offered small samples of their fare. Tasters voted to pick the best.
Most said the exposure is worth all the work, but hard to quantify. For Maxwell, who’s put together booths based on Wizard of Oz and Star Wars, having a good theme is as necessary as attending the expo.
“It is measurable,” she said of the effect of those themes, “because people talk about it ... they remember us.”
The expo also drew local school officials, like Calhoun County School System administrator Holly Box. She said the event offers an opportunity to scout services schools or students might need access to.
“That’s what we do,” Box said, noting the presence of the YMCA, the United Way, and Webb Concrete, all enterprises that’ve helped the system’s homeless specialists and parent liaisons.
She was there with two other system employees; all three women had bags of free items. April Phillips, the system superintendent’s secretary, had gotten her face painted. Box got a flu shot.