By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
Bolstered by attendance of more than 2,000 people, the first ever Woman to Woman Expo on Saturday was declared a success. Havre can expect more in the future, but probably not next year, the event's coordinator said today.
A variety of booths filled vacant spaces in the Atrium Mall and Holiday Village Shopping Center, where about 70 vendors from Havre and beyond sold products, gave information and raffled off prizes.
Several shows and talks on various topics of special interest to women drew listeners throughout the day, including seminars on a variety of topics from financial planning to fibromyalgia, as well as a fashion show with live music.
"The Atrium has been jammed all morning," event coordinator Charisse Boedecker said on Saturday afternoon. "It's been very well attended and there's been constant traffic all day."
She added that there had been standing room only at three of the talks in the morning as well as at the afternoon fashion show.
This morning Boedecker estimated that about 1,800 people came to Holiday Village throughout the day, and that about 800 came to the Atrium. She said many people visited both locations.
Favorites at the expo included the Atrium seminars on sleep apnea, stress management, and healthy pasta cooking, Boedecker said. At Holiday Village, she said, seminars had a lower turnout.
"Women were not sitting down, and as a result of them being on the move, the Holiday Village seminars were not well attended," Boedecker said.
Instead, she said, women at Holiday Village "wanted to be at those booths to see new products and information."
"It's been great," said Kevin Dowse, president of Fasst and Safe Products Inc., which set up a booth in Holiday Village selling a line of nontoxic insect repellent.
"I think every mother is looking for a product for their child that's safe and nontoxic," said Dowse, who flew from West Pittson, Pa., to attend the event.
At the other end of the mall was a series of booths geared toward women's health issues.
"A lot of people today are learning things about opportunities in the community they didn't know existed," said Karen Sloan as she passed out information about breast and cervical cancer. Sloan, a registered nurse, is the director of the Montana Breast and Cervical Cancer Program, one of the sponsors of the booth.
Nearby, a booth set up by an organization called ImProving Health Among Rural Montanans, based at the University of Montana School of Pharmacy, provided inexpensive tests for bone density, hemoglobin and lung capacity.
"I think (women) can find out some of the things maybe they were afraid to have checked or possibly (didn't) because of the cost," said Havre resident Lynn Ophus as she waited for a bone density test. "I've been wanting to have this bone density test done for a long time."
By 3 p.m., the booth had performed about 35 tests, said Kari Meine, a pharmacist who was giving the tests.
Meanwhile at the Atrium, things had slowed down by early afternoon after the well-attended seminars of the late morning and early afternoon.
"It's a great thing when the community tries to point out different populations' needs," said Helena resident Jimmy Senterfitt, chief operations officer of New West Health Services, a Montana-based insurance company. Senterfitt's seminar on "Understanding Health Insurance in Montana" at 3 p.m. drew only a handful of people.
"Men and women have different health care issues," Senterfitt said, adding that although some of the issues are the same, "We should probably have a men to men health care (event) one day."
The day was also for fun, not just for serious issues.
"I think it was very exciting and the singers were great," said Havre resident Johanna Kato. Entertainment on Saturday included soloists during the fashion show, and the choir of the Anchor Academy for Boys and the Wild Rose Harmonizers.
The fashion show, which began at 1 p.m. and ran for about an hour, featured a skit put on by Handcrafter's Gallery that displayed women's fashions over time. The Red Hat Society participated in their red hats and purple dresses.
"The Red Hat ladies were delightful," Kato said, adding that she was given a prize for having brown eyes.
The expo was also a success from the point of view of businesses in the two malls.
"We had a super day on Saturday," said Herberger's store manager Gary Peterson, adding that the event caused a "direct boost" in sales. "It just created some excitement at the mall," he said. Herberger's and other businesses as well as the Red Hat Society sponsored the fashion show.
Despite the drop in visitors later in the afternoon, the expo was a success for the Atrium too.
"I was very pleased to see that many people downtown at that time," said Atrium owner Don Vaupel, who said he received good feedback from the two or three Atrium business owners he had talked to.
"Actually, we've had a lot of walk-in people" as a result of the expo, said Dustin Kraske, co-owner of Petal Pusher flower and gift store in the Atrium. "They're not necessarily purchasing anything, but they're at least coming into the store."
"It's nice because there's a lot of people actually in the Atrium," he said.
Boedecker said the event will be repeated, but probably not next year.
"We will definitely repeat the event," she said. "However, it takes time to find new things ... It might take a couple of years to get enough new stuff into the community."
She said changes in the future could include shortening the expo to end earlier in the afternoon, and consolidating the event so it isn't so spread out in each location.
She said that having booths around the activities, "arena-style" - like the nonprofit booths in the old J.C. Penney store - was more successful than putting booths in the vacant stores.
"There's enough room in J.C. Penney's to put all the booths there," she said, but added that the extra traffic in the mall helped stores there, particularly the food vendors.