By Jeanne Sager
LIBERTY April 16, 2002 Even foul weather can be a blessing sometimes.
For the exhibitors at this years Sullivan County Expo 2002 in the Liberty High School gymnasium, Saturdays rain was a dream come true.
In past years, the weather on the Expo weekend was always too good or just too awful sunny days kept people in their gardens, and snow storms left them shoveling out their walkways.
But a record crowd showed up for this years expo, said a number of exhibitors the rain was boosting business.
Tim Killian of Northwood Construction in Liberty has been operating a booth at the expo since it started six years ago.
Hes always done well, bringing in several new customers, but this year the clientele seemed to be more spread out folks were stopping by from as far away as Wurtsboro or Narrowsburg.
I do a lot of local business everyone here knows me, Killian said, but this has helped with expansion to other ends of the county.
He originally signed up for the expo because he wanted more face-to-face time with customers, and hes been pleasantly surprised.
Geraldine Ekker, owner of Ekker Vac and Sew of Liberty, has been running a booth at the fair since its beginning as well.
A second-generation business owner, Ekker felt it was important to remind people that she was still there after 36 years.
Her business is familiar to a lot of longtime residents of Liberty, but not necessarily known to the new faces across the county.
Showing 5-year-old Willy Killian, his sister Allison, 8, and 7-year-old cousin Mikaela Milk how a machine could sew a picture of Winnie the Pooh for them based on a design entered into a computer, Ekker explained that the expo has been a good way to test new products and show customers what she has available.
Its a nice chance to get back to the Liberty High School, she added.
These are my old stomping grounds, she said with a laugh.
Saturday, the first day of this years expo, was busier than any other year she has shown her stuff, Ekker said.
Weather is always a contention, she noted, whether theyre stopping here or theyre outside gardening.
Candy and George VanArsdall of Youngsville took advantage of the rainy day to stop by the expo for their second year.
Last year the couple were new to the area, and they used the expo as a means to introduce them to what the countys business world has to offer.
They decided to come back, George said, because he recognized there were a lot of businesses who open up booths offering things he needs.
That was the original idea behind the expo, said David Josephson, vice president of the Greater Liberty Chamber of Commerce.
The expo was put together six years ago by the chamber. It was spearheaded this year by Dianne Brady of the HSBC Bank.
We wanted the area to recognize there are a lot of businesses they know, but a lot they dont know too, Josephson said.
They have changed their marketing strategy slightly trying to get the word out not only through newspapers and on the radio, but online.
And it seemed to work, Josephson noted, although the weather certainly helped business as well.
The focus of the expo has traditionally been mostly on Liberty, he noted, but on Liberty as a part of Sullivan County.
The makeup of the booths was about 70 percent Liberty businesses, but other countywide organizations and industries were represented as well.
In addition to businesses, civic organizations are encouraged to open a booth to get more publicity for their cause.
The Sullivan County Shields, which manages security and parking for the expo, has been given a booth each year.
Bill Devery of the Shields organization has been manning the booth for the past five years, and the member of the American Legion and commander of Post #9217 of the VFW in Liberty uses the event as a way to spread information about veterans causes.
Each year, he said, they are able to sign up at least two or three more veterans who fell through the cracks at some point.
And this year, Devery was seeing a lot more folks taking a break from the rainy weather and wandering the aisles of the expo.