25 Years of "Shop Local"


This year marks the 25th year of Dodge County's Annual Business Expo. Gerry Fahning, founder of Fahning and Associates, has been at every single expo, because it was his brainchild, and something he truly believes in. Along with Wells Fargo Bank of Dodge Center's Marsha Rash, who was the bank president at that time, they came up with the idea of showcasing local businesses with emphasis on "Shop Local".

Gerry wanted the residents of Dodge Center to know that they didn't need to leave town to get the supplies and services they needed. He began talking with the Economic Development members and small business owners in town. "At first they were skeptical", Gerry mused, remembering the humble beginnings. "They didn't know if it would go over, or be a success". Well, obviously, 25 years and 25 shows later, he was right!

The first year had 20 vendors, all from Dodge Center. The event was a hit, both for the businesses and attendees. The word spread, and business owners from Kasson, Mantorville and other towns nearby started asking about being involved in the next expo. After some careful consideration, Gerry's team decided to branch out, but only to Dodge County residents, to really keep the focus on the local economy.

The team began reaching out to other communities in Dodge County, and they were well received. And so it became the Dodge County Business Expo.

The location of the first expo was at Triton's school gymnasium, so they decided to continue to hold the rest of them there as well. The evet grew "Expo-nentially", and now includes ambassadors from every community in Dodge County. It is exclusive to Dodge County because of Gerry's idea to promote the "shop local" aspect of businesses. Other counties have tried to be a part of this show, but Gerry held fast to his vision. Here is one place to meet over 100 of your neighbors who work hard to make a living in your own backyard.

A few of the businesses have participated in every expo held these past 25 years. Fahning and Associates, the various art guilds, such as the Mantorville Theater, and Hardware Hank in Kasson are a few who have stayed the course and never regretted their decision.

Every expo has been well attended, even the year a blizzard hit with no time to cancel. People still showed up, and the show was a success. Now they can boast over 1500 attendees per show. Yep, I'd call that a success!

The businesses in all the participating communities come up with new ideas every year. Each town sponsors a basket full of goodies to raffle off. You just fill out a registration form when you come through the door. Many of the vendors also have gift drawings and give aways at their booths, so be sure to check them all out!

The expo committee members work with the schools to have help on set up and tear down, serving food, and entertaining the people who come out to meet the business owners. Some schools do things like having a dance performance or other entertainment. This year for the first time, there will be 5 food vendors serving up their specialties, and live music for your enjoyment. The qualifier for the Boy Scouts Pinewood Derby will be held in the gym this year, as well as the first time ever Dodge County Mullet Contest! Everyone is welcome to enter that one!

This is a non profit event, so the proceeds from the vendor fees go to advertise the event, and any incidentals incurred in putting on the show. Any money left over will be earmarked for scholarships for local project needs as they arise.

Gerry is the Committee Member Emeritus, and he can tell you so many facts and stories about previous shows. Most of all, he wishes to thank the hardworking committee members who do a year's worth of planning to make this event such a hit with the locals. So a great big thank you goes out to Dan Rabe, president, and Kristie Faber, Lynnette Nash, David Evans, Tom Monahan, Larry Dobson, Bob Soland, Jen Galloway and Chris Pluto.

Now that you know the history of this awesome event, come on out to Triton Gymnasium on March 23rd from 8 am to 2 pm, and enjoy the show!