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Official: Weather won't freeze out trade show
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Bob Koester (left) and Mike Bryant with Patrick Henry Community College talk Monday about how they are going to set up the college’s booth at Fast Track 2014. The show will open to the public on Wednesday. (Bulletin photo by Ben R. Williams)
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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

By BEN R. WILLIAMS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Neither rain, nor sleet, nor another winter snow will stop Fast Track 2014 from taking place tonight and Wednesday, according to Martinsville Henry County Chamber of Commerce President Amanda Witt.

“I’m hoping that this little weather system that’s moving in quickly moves out,” Witt said Monday morning. “Vendors just want to know if the show’s going to be the same. We’re planning on it being exactly the same, Tuesday and Wednesday, 4 to 8 p.m.”

Vendors had begun setting up their booths for the show on Monday morning. According to Witt, roughly 130 vendors will have displays at about 150 booths. Those numbers are on par with recent years’ Fast Track shows.

Fast Track often tends to coincide with unpredictable weather, Witt said.

“It seems every year for Fast Track we have some sort of weather,” she said. “We’ve had tornado warnings, crazy rain, snow before, snow during. It doesn’t surprise me.”

As a result, she said, moving Fast Track to a different time of year occasionally is discussed, but there are no plans in place to do so.

“This is our 20th anniversary,” she said. “People just know that the first Tuesday and Wednesday of March is Fast Track. We’ve not wanted to break that tradition. There are no plans of changing it as of right now, but you never know.”

In recent years, Fast Track was held at the Clocktower at Commonwealth Centre. This year, the show will be held in the building behind the clocktower building, previously the Tultex factory on Commonwealth Boulevard.

So far, Witt said, the new location has proved popular. The building has plenty of room, wider aisles, entrances for both vendors and the public on same floor, and restrooms on the same floor.

Doris Biga, who was setting up a booth for King’s Grant Retirement Community with Angie Kurczewski, said she has set up booths at previous Fast Track events, and bringing things in was easier in the new site than it was at the clocktower building.

“We got over here early to beat the anticipated bad weather,” Biga said Monday morning. “It’s nice. It’s big, and it’s bright. I think it’ll work fine.”

Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) faculty member Bob Koester — a.k.a. “Chef Bob” — was helping to set up the PHCC booth Monday. Koester said the inclement weather could present some problems for his part of the display.

In his section of the booth, he said, he will be cooking food with several PHCC culinary students — unless the college is closed today, that is.

“If the school’s closed, you really can’t do anything with the students,” Koester said. “If there’s no school tomorrow, there’s no way I could even do it. I would definitely fall victim to the weather here.”

Mike Bryant, also with PHCC, wasn’t overly concerned by Monday’s weather.

“It’s made (set-up) a little different, but we’re getting it done,” Bryant said. “Two years ago, it actually sleeted and snowed, and we still had (the show). It still worked out.”

Rick and Laura Steere, who were setting up a booth for their nonprofit organization, Infinity Acres, remember that snowy Fast Track well.

“We came on opening night, and it was snowing so hard we drove off the road,” Rick Steere said.

“But it was still packed,” Laura Steere added. “People still come out. It’s such a good event, people come out regardless of the weather.”

The Steeres agreed that they preferred this year’s Fast Track location over the previous clocktower building location. Because the show floor at the clocktower was divided into three sections, Rick Steere said, he wondered if the vendors set up in the third section got less foot traffic than vendors closer to the entrance.

The Steeres prefer the new building for another reason as well. At Infinity Acres Ranch, they have a variety of exotic animals, several of which they plan to feature at Fast Track, including an alpaca, a llama, a sugar glider and giant Flemish rabbits.

The Steeres did not have a booth at Fast Tracks at the clocktower building, they said, because they wouldn’t have been able to get the animals to the upper floors of the building.

“We don’t know how (llamas and alpacas) are going to act shut up in an elevator, you know,” Rick Steere said.

Fast Track 2014 will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. today and Wednesday in the building behind the Clocktower at Commonwealth Centre. Today is VIP night for invited guests only. Wednesday night will be open to the public. Admission will be $2 or two cans of food that will be donated to Grace Network for distribution to the needy.

People visiting Fast Track 2014 who park uptown should use the foot bridge across Commonwealth Boulevard to get to the show.


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