Fast Track 2014 offered area residents — both new and established — an opportunity to learn about the businesses in their backyard, according to the attendees Wednesday night.
The annual trade show, which is organized by the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce, took place Tuesday and Wednesday at a building behind the Clocktower at Commonwealth Centre. It featured about 130 booths of businesses, services and organizations.
Cliff and Jenette Wilson, who moved to Martinsville from Sacramento, Calif. about seven months ago to be closer to their grandchildren, said the trade show introduced them to businesses they didn’t know.
“We’re new in town, so this is opening a lot of doors for us,” Cliff Wilson said. “This is an eye-opening experience, because we didn’t know most of these things existed here. We’ve driven by a lot of these places, but we had no idea what they were.”
“We’re retired,” Jenette Wilson said, and they’re always on the lookout for fun activities in the area. As theater lovers, they were excited to discover that they would be able to attend plays at the Theatreworks Black Box, Patrick Henry Community College and Piedmont Arts Association.
“We had no idea so many theater groups were active in this area,” Cliff Wilson said. “We found three of them today.”
Iris Gillespie, who was born and raised locally but spent 30 years in Los Angeles, has moved back to the area. Her reaction to Fast Track was similar to the Wilsons’.
“It’s amazing what’s hidden away,” Gillespie said. “You wouldn’t think a big event like this would be going on in a small town. This is a great thing for the community, because you get to see who’s in the community. You put everybody in one location, you can meet the people, you can put a face with a sign or a company.”
Fast Track also offered surprises for established area residents. Danny Hice and Greg Hackenberg discovered several businesses that they hadn’t previously been familiar with.
“The (Stanburn Winery) wine-tasting was a nice touch,” Hice said. “I enjoyed all of their selections. It was an eye-opener.”
“I’m impressed with all the non-profits and the good they’re doing in the community,” Hackenberg said. He added that with all of the booths offering candy, he felt like he was trick-or-treating.
City resident Donna Redd said that it was her fourth year attending the event, and “there are a lot of new vendors I haven’t seen here before.”
Redd added that trade show’s new location at a building behind the Clocktower at Commonwealth Crossing felt roomier and “less congested” than previous trade shows at the Clocktower Building.
2013 Miss Wheelchair Virginia Brittany Yates said that it was hard to pick a favorite booth, but she enjoyed the SPCA booth featuring shelter dogs and Infinity Acres’ booth featuring a llama, an alpaca, a Great Pyrenees dog and Flemish Giant rabbits.
“The dogs and the llamas and bunnies... that’s what I’m all about,” Yates said.