This year, expo lets outside in

MERRIMACK – For the first time, businesses from across town borders are invited to take part in this year’s Merrimack Fall Festival and Business Expo.

Now in its fifth year, the expo has generally been restricted to town businesses only. But, prompted by resident requests, lead organizer David McCray has extended the invitation to neighboring towns for this year’s event, to be held Oct. 1 around the Merrimack town center.

“We’ve got a lot of people from Merrimack who say they also shop other places, and it might be nice to know what’s in Bedford, what’s in Amherst,” McCray said Monday.

“We’re not looking for (businesses from) Massachusetts to come here, but .?.?. Amherst is right around the corner,” he said. “The more the merrier.”

Typically, the expo showcases up to 175 Merrimack business, craftsmen and nonprofit groups that distribute information to festival-goers.

Last year, more than 7,500 people attended, but this year, organizers believe that neighboring businesses could draw even more attendees, benefitting businesses both in and out of town.

“This could be the next big step (for the festival),” McCray said. “We’ve had a good response from Bedford and Amherst so far.”

The Merrimack event could prove to be a new marketing opportunity for businesses from Amherst, Hollis and other neighboring towns, according to Stephanie Kruy, a member of the board of directors of the Souhegan Valley Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber, which holds its own business expo in October, opens its event to businesses from across the state.

“We try to get people from all over,” Kruy said. “It can help them build their client-base.”

But, by drawing more people from out of town, the event could be an even bigger boost to Merrimack businesses, helping them to recruit new potential clients, according to Deb Courtemanche, executive director of the Merrimack Chamber of Commerce.

“It would definitely increase exposure,” she said. “Our region is close enough and small enough to extend beyond Merrimack. It’s smart as businesses to consider ourselves a region instead of a town.”

With more than two months left until the event, about 25 businesses have registered to date, according to McCray, the event organizer.

“The fact is, 85 percent of businesses don’t sign up until the week before,” he said.

Four musical acts have committed to the event, as has Wally the Green Monster, the Red Sox mascot, and a variety of clowns and animals.

And McCray is still looking to arrange other entertainment, including Black Hawk helicopters and the Budweiser Clydesdale horses.

The event will run from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. around Merrimack Town Hall, Abbie Griffin Park and the Mastricola Elementary School.

Anyone looking for more information can reach McCray at dmccray7@aol.com.

“It’s really coming together well,” he said. “People are sending checks. They really believe in it. .?.?. After five years, (the expo) is really catching on.”

Jake Berry can be reached at 594-6402 or jberry@nashuatelegraph.com.