WHITEHALL – For the first time since its inception the White Lake Community Business Expo was outdoors.

Typically, indoors at the Whitehall High School gymnasium, this year the event was at the football field due to safety concerns involving COVID-19. The White Lake Business Expo, which was Saturday, May 15, was cancelled last year due to the virus.

“This is the first time we’ve ever had the business expo outside. And I remember when I talked to (executive director) Amy (VanLoon) about that, I was like OK, think of everything we’ve done for this event throw it out the window and let’s have it outside,” said Carlie Bishop, event coordinator for the White Lake Area Chamber of Commerce.

“So, we just sort of rolled with it. Talked to (superintendent) Jerry McDowell and the athletic director and they both were like, ‘Yeah, this sounds great, let’s do it!”

Planning for the event began in February.

“I started in February and graduated with a hospitality management degree from Ferris (State University). But this is my first event that I have ever planned.”

Bishop said she wasn’t sure she would actually get to use her degree because of COVID-19 gathering restrictions. However, she was very excited to have finally used it, and to have planned her first event.

“First initial thought was it (business expo) was awesome. I finally got to use my degree, and once COVID hit I never thought that was something I’d ever be able to do or at least for a while, said Bishop.

“Definitely, there was a lot to do. I’d been to school for that (hospitality management) but never done that (event planning). So, the implementation part was really exciting but a little stressful at times.”

In order to keep people safe, staff working the event recorded people’s names and phone numbers for COVID-19 contact tracing purposes.

Bishop was unsure if future events would go back to being indoors or if it would remain outdoors.

“I know people loved it being indoors especially when we could partner with Rotary and do the pancake breakfast. That is something everyone loves and it is tradition, so I’m not quite sure what that will look like,” said Bishop.

Bishop said she enjoys being outdoors, but weather can be unpredictable, and make planning an event difficult. However, she said if the feedback is positive enough, they will have to consider it.

The event appeared smaller than it has in the past. According to Bishop, the expo had less vendors attend this year, and thinks it probably has to do with what is happening currently with COVID-19.

For more information about future chamber events visit: https://www.whitelake.org/.

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