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Big business and big bucks

Hay River's Chamber of Commerce celebrates silver anniversary in style

Thorunn Howatt
Northern News Services

Hay River (Sep 16/02) - Two bits will buy a lot -- at least it did last week at the Hay River Chamber of Commerce's annual trade fair.

The 25-cent door admission opened up a world of diamonds, travel and bottom-line business.

"I think there were about 1,000 people through here this weekend," said the chamber's Tracy Cross-Gauthier.

Hay River's arena was bustling and jam-packed with people. One word to use for the 11th annual trade fair: successful. The event was a special way to celebrate the chamber's 25th anniversary.

The 25-cent entry fee has become a trade show tradition with a different youth organization monitoring the door charge every year.

"They don't get paid anything but they keep the admission fees," said Cross-Gauthier.

And the youth have a big job. This year's group -- the Hay River Young Girl's Sports Club -- cleaned up, emptied garbages, and did general errands. It sounds like a lot of work for very little cash.

But there's a catch. Every time a person leaves, they have to pay another quarter to get back in. It adds up.

The first year the two-bit scheme was implemented the particular youth group was given a donation of $500 -- but that idea was quickly kiboshed.

"They were making more money than we were," said Cross-Gauthier. It seems people went in and out of the venue a lot and the quarters soon turned into big bucks.

The event is the chamber's biggest fundraiser each year. Sixty-two booths were rented to businesses and organizations for between $265 and $665.The chamber expects to see about a $4,000 profit.

The most important point of the show, though, is a chance for organizations and businesses to showcase themselves.

A group from the community of Enterprise made up of six government and business entities made an impression at the Hay River event.

"We got exposure here we wouldn't get anywhere else," said Robert Flamand. "We saw the premier, two MLAs, mayors and business people."

And a new Hay River business, The Woodshed Gift and Garden Centre, was there to show people what a beautiful new shop they have -- a greenhouse teamed with an elegant gift shop.

Mining companies like Diavik and BHP Billiton were there showing off their diamond projects.

What was the most frequently asked question at the BHP Billiton booth?

"How do I get a job at Ekati?" said the company's Denise Burlingame.