Rediscover Main Street at annual NH Expo
Thursday, October 10, 2013
MILFORD – Home and family have always been a part of the annual Southern New Hampshire Expo, but this year, the Souhegan Valley Chamber of Commerce is putting even more focus on those ideas.
The theme for this year’s event, which will be held Thursday, Oct. 17, from 2-7:30 p.m., at the Hampshire Dome at Hampshire Hills Sports and Fitness Club in Milford, is “Rediscovering Main Street.” Chamber officials believe that home and family are a big part of that Main Street feeling.
This is because the Expo isn’t just about business, said May Balsama, the chamber’s executive director. Really, it’s about people – certainly, the business people of the Souhegan Valley and its environs, but also, and perhaps more important, about the people who really make those businesses a success: families.
So, to make the Expo even more family oriented than it has been in years past, the chamber is introducing two new attractions: a flash mob and Santa.
With the flash mob, the chamber hopes that families will not only be entertained, but that the teenagers who create, produce and perform in the “mob” will get the credit they are due for their effort and perhaps the organization to which they belong will attract even more members and adherents.
That organization is Community Action for Safe Teens, known locally as CAST, founded in 2004 by families with teenagers who were looking for “healthy ways to use the teens’ time and that was enjoyable and that the kids felt good about,” Balsama said.
The group’s mission is to support and strengthen families, reduce the use or abuse of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, and encourage healthy choices by teens through community awareness and action. CAST serves Amherst, Brookline, Hollis, Lyndeborough, Milford, Mont Vernon and Wilton.
A few years ago, CAST became affiliated with the Boys & Girls Club of Souhegan Valley, which has long had a booth at the expo, but this is the first year that CAST kids will perform.
Although precisely what the flash mob will do is a bit of a secret, Monica Gallant, the advisor to the group, said the kids always dance to an inspirational song.
She said that the idea behind flash mob mirrors that of CAST – “It provides the kids with a sense of community and helps them to make healthy choices, avoid negative peer pressure and gives them a positive way to share a healthy message.”
CAST also offers teens a leadership training course and helps them to plan community events that could involve four high schools – Milford, Souhegan, Hollis Brookline and Wilton-Lyndeborough.
“They’re pretty active,” Gallant said.
She’s hopeful that participation in the expo will raise awareness about the group’s events and programs, something that Balsama seconds.
Santa probably won’t be as active as the CAST flash mobbers but that doesn’t mean he won’t be mobbed.
The image of Santa is as much a part of Main Street, thus the Expo theme, as, say, a town square or a gazebo, Balsama said, so he fits perfectly. He’ll be on-hand to speak with kids and the chamber is providing a photographer to take family photos – at no charge – with Santa or even without him.
And that isn’t all that’s new about Expo. Each year, some new businesses have booths and this year is no different, with the Hilltop Cafe from Wilton, and two new local “green” businesses: Naturally Clean and Ultimate Green Cleaning.
Also on-hand for the first time will be The Orange Leaf, a new yogurt shop on Route 101A in Amherst, Balsama said.
The idea behind this year’s expo and its theme, “Rediscovering Main Street,” is that sense of community that the idea of Main Street conjurs.
“If you think about what we want for roots, what we want for stability, as individuals what we want for that place we call home, it’s what you remember: You remember the village green, the gazebo, the Oval, the village store in Brookline or Main Street in Wilton, or Nashua, wherever you hang your hat,” she said during a recent interview. “It’s that tone that’s set by what the center of town is; it’s really the hub of activity.”
This is the feel the chamber wants to bring to the Expo and not just for the 200-plus businesses that will exhibit, but for the visitors who bring their kids for the fun events and the myriad food samples. She wants them to leave having experienced what once was.