Business expo will happen after all

MERRIMACK – In Merrimack, the expo will go on.

The Merrimack Fall Festival and Business Expo, in question this year due to the health of its lead planner, will take place in October, according to David McCray, who has led the event for the last five years.

McCray, who first conceived of the idea to showcase town businesses and organizations, initially planned to suspend the event for one year after he ruptured a tendon in his knee twice over the winter. “I just didn’t think I could do it myself,” he said last week.

But the public outcry that followed once he notified town officials of his plans forced him to reconsider.

The event is now scheduled to take place Oct. 1 in the town center.

“I was surprised. I didn’t think people were that caught up in it,” said McCray, who was scheduled to present his plans July 21 to the Merrimack Town Council. “I obviously misread the people. … It’s been great to see.”

Still recovering from his injuries, McCray first informed the Town Council last month of his plans to take a year off from the expo. His knee injury wouldn’t allow him to lead the event himself, he told them at the time, and the one-year gap would allow him to plan a larger event for 2012.

But, within a week, a number of town residents and town officials alike reached out to McCray, concerned over the future of the expo.

One resident, Chris Petrovic, who volunteers with Merrimack High School’s U.S. FIRST robotics team, called, offering up to 50 volunteers to help.

And others promised additional time and resources.

“There were a lot of us who were disappointed that it wasn’t going to happen,” Petrovic said. “For business, for nonprofits, for everyone, it’s a great tool to show the community what you’re about.”

From that point, McCray reached out to town businesses to gauge interest in holding the event. Within a day, he heard back from 60 business, and by the following weekend, another 30 responded, expressing interest.

“We were relieved to hear it’s going to happen,” said Deb Courtemanche, executive director of the Merrimack Chamber of Commerce. “In the span of one day, the number of people the businesses can reach … it’s of great benefit to the businesses in the Merrimack area.”

Over the last few weeks, the planning has moved into full swing. McCray has hired musical entertainment, and he’s arranged an appearance once again from Wally the Green Monster, the Red Sox mascot, among other special guests.

Businesses will set up booths in Merrimack Town Hall and in the Mastricola Elementary School, while artists and craftsmen will be located in Abbie Griffin Park, adjacent to town hall on Baboosic Lake Road.

This year, McCray plans to reach out more to businesses outside of town, which do not compete directly with Merrimack companies. Those businesses could help to draw even more attendees from inside and outside of town, he said. Last year, the event drew about 7,500 people.

“It’s coming together great,” McCray said last week.

“It really blows me away. I kind of really thought it was going to be one of those ‘if a tree fell in the woods, does anyone hear it?’ kind of things,” he said. “I didn’t realize people appreciate it like this.”

Jake Berry can be reached at 594-6402 or