GORHAM – With an economy still in recovery, Gorham businesses are counting on Saturday’s annual Gorham Marketplace as the place for them to be, exhibiting products and services for thousands of potential customers.
“It’s definitely valuable,” Kelly Leskowsky, a spokeswoman for the Dance Studio of Maine on School Street, said this week about participation in the Gorham Marketplace.
“It’s an opportunity to talk with parents face-to-face,” Leskowsky said.
And shoppers have an opportunity to win money, seek investment advice, open a bank account or even buy Girl Scout cookies.
The 15th annual Gorham Marketplace 2012, sponsored by Gorham Business Exchange, opens at 10 a.m. and continues to 3 p.m. on Saturday in the Costello Field House on the University of Southern Maine’s Gorham campus.
The event usually attracts around 3,000 people. For residents, it makes for a cost-free day to meet neighbors and friends while becoming acquainted with local businesses and civic groups.
Event highlights include live entertainment, demonstrations, cash prizes, vendor booths and food, along with games and bounce houses for children.
Admission and parking on campus are free. A van courtesy of Gorham Recreation Department with volunteer drivers will shuttle shoppers from parking areas to the arena throughout the day.
Dede Perkins, executive director of the Gorham Business Exchange, said this year’s event would have more than 80 booths.
The marketplace charges businesses $140 for a single booth for registrations before Dec. 31; $165 before Jan. 31; and $190 after Feb. 1.
“It’s a very cost-effective way to see customers,” Perkins said.
The university charges the event for staff like electricians, custodians and campus police, but not for the space itself.
“We do this as a service to the community,” Judie O’Malley, a university spokeswoman, said Tuesday. “It’s a wonderful event. It’s really a good opportunity to what’s going on in Gorham.”
The marketplace mission is to showcase quality products and services available in Gorham.
For shoppers interested in financial matters, Casco Federal Credit Union and Gorham Savings Bank will be on hand.
Jesse Coleman, owner of My-Fit-24, a 24-hour fitness facility on Railroad Avenue, will serve as emcee for the demonstrations, sponsor a demonstration at 11:45 a.m., and also have a booth. Coleman said the Gorham Marketplace affords an opportunity for quality interaction and mingling with people to share information about businesses.
“People are careful where they spend money these days and they want good value,” Coleman said.
Ten dancers from Dance Studio of Maine will perform from noon to12:30 p.m. and the school will also have a booth.
“It absolutely attracts new students,” Leskowsky said about the school’s presence at the event.
Visitors like to eat, too, and Amato’s Sandwich Shops in Gorham, along with other local restaurants, will be there serving up goodies in the food court. John Jollotta, manager at Amato’s, said the Gorham Marketplace is an opportunity to promote its products and for him to get out and meet people. He sees results.
“We give out club membership cards and we know they come back,” Jollotta said. “It’s networking.”
Po-Go Realty on Main Street is a regular at the event.
“We can reconnect with past clients we haven’t seen for a while,” said Peter Mason of PoGo.
Mason said it’s also good to see all the other business owners.
Besides businesses, town departments like police and fire departments will have demonstrations like the smoke trailer and the Gorham police driving simulator. Kids will have an opportunity to see Sparky the firedog and even sit in a real Gorham police cruiser.
The event is an opportunity for the university to have a booth, too, O’Malley said, where she and other university representatives can meet parents of future students. She will also distribute literature about the university and about its musical and theater summer camps.
Adults interested in going back to school can ask about acquiring degrees online. For those hoping to link up with former school chums, the Gorham High School Alumni Association will staff a booth.
The Gorham Boy Scouts will officially open the marketplace with a flag ceremony at 10 a.m.
The schedule of events includes an airbag demonstration by Moody’s Collision Center at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.; Gorham and Falmouth high school robotics team, 11 a.m and 1 p.m..; cash prize drawing, 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.; and Greater Portland School of Jukado, 12:30 p.m.
The always-popular game show, “The Price is Right,” is back this year at 1:30 p.m. Virginia Wilder Cross, who founded the Gorham Marketplace, and Gorham Recreation Department Director Cindy Hazelton, will again be hostesses for that show.
Organizers are hoping the weather will cooperate for a big turnout.
“So much depends on the weather,” Perkins said.