Chamber Business Expo returns in May with fun line-up

By Ken Kellar
Staff writer

The Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce is getting ready for the return of the annual Business and Community Expo.

Scheduled for May 13 and 14 at the Fort Frances Curling Club, this year marks the first expo to take place since 2019 following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

The Chamber has made available a package containing all of the relevant information for businesses interested in taking part in the Expo, including booth sizes and costs, as well as rules for any additional requirements anyone may need.

Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce executive director Heather Johnson said this year’s Expo is aimed at returning to something resembling normalcy.

“We hope to get back to how our Expos were before COVID,” she explained.

“Where we have a full slate of businesses and home-based businesses, as well as some fun things for the kids to do. We’re going with a ‘Staycation 2022’ theme, loosely: what is there to do in our beautiful part of the world and how do we entertain the kids, how do we stay at home, how do we live at our camps? Probably for another year or two people will be a little leery around travel, so just different ideas around our area and around Ontario.”

Johnson said another plus of this year’s Expo theme is the staycation tax credit that has been made available from the provincial government for travel within Ontario. Eligible residents can claim 20 percent of qualified accommodation expenses for vacations taken between January 1 and December 31, 2022, up to a maximum of $1,000 for an individual and $2,000 for a family. That translates to a maximum savings of $200 and $400, respectively, according to the Ontario government.

Johnson said that registration and sign-up prices have been reduced to encourage more businesses and organizations to take part following potential financial disruptions due to COVID, and they have also removed an entrance fee for visitors.

“There is no entrance fee this year, and we will be taking non-perishable or a silver collection for our local food banks,” Johnson said.

Sing-ups have already started, Johnson explained, with a deadline for registrants set for May 6. A handful of booths have already reserved for the May Expo.

“People seem to be really excited about getting out and getting started and getting back to doing different things,” she explained.

“I think we’ll have a good variety of different exhibitors. We usually do. We’re just in the middle of getting a lot of things put into action.”

Like in other years, the Expo is planning on having food vendors set up for visitors and participating businesses, along with an exhibitors lounge. But there will also be plenty on offer for families.

“We’re also having our bouncy castle company back,” Johnson said.

“We’re hoping they’re going to be able to make that weekend and come have that happen for the kids as well. We’ll have the hospital auxiliary there with ‘Rocking for a Reason,’ a good way to support our hospital and all their fundraising capacity. Beyak Automotive will be there again with lots of nice new vehicles, and then we’ll also have a number of groups like the Fire Department, Confederation College, NCDS; all of our regulars that will return. We’re hoping to have it up and going full guns in the next couple of weeks.”

If any businesses or organizations are interested in participating in this year’s Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce Business and Community Expo, they can call Johnson at the Chamber at 274-5773 or by emailing Businesses can also view the complete registration package at the Chamber’s website under the “Events” tab.

“We’re hoping to have a really good variety of different activities and businesses that everybody can take part in and just enjoy the walk around and pick up a few things for their summer staycation,” Johnson said.