The organizers of the Main Event held Wednesday were all smiles as they gazed upon the large crowds maneuvering for position among all the booths set up by local businesses.
"This is our business expo where we promote our businesses and industries," said Wade Jones, executive director for the East Mississippi Business Development Corporation. "Communities are defined by the businesses and industry in their areas and by the strength of their economies. I think we have a strong contingent of businesses in and around Meridian."
Dozens of booths with vendors offering freebies were to be found in a Bonita Lakes Mall space, but the one getting the most attention was North American Coal, the winner in Best of Show.
Kim White, operations manager for North American Coal, Liberty Fields said the booth's model was built to demonstrate how lignite will be taken from the ground and prepared for shipment to Mississippi Power's new power plant in Kemper County.
"This model is a one to 50 scale model of what a real pit would look like, so the equipment that is in the model, the trucks, the dozer, the drag line, that's all to scale," White said. "The gray material is the dirt; the black material is the coal and that's also relative one to 50 scale. The display is to show the mining sequence, and how it works."
Other winners were Commercial Bank, which won Best of Show in keeping with the theme, "All About Town," Best of Show - Small Business, The Meridian Star, and Best of Show - Non-Profit, Mississippi Organ Recovery Agency.
Julie Boles, who chaired the event this year, said more than 80 businesses participated Wednesday, many of whom did a good job in staying within the theme.
"We have several business that are actually celebrating anniversaries this year so they are highlighting how they have been a part of our community for 75 years," Boles said. "Some are celebrating 125 years so we are very pleased with the way that they have used our theme to look at our past and our future and the vision that we have for that future."
C.D. Smith, chairman of the East Mississippi Business Development Corporation, said the event calls attention to the strength of the business community.
"What is really wonderful about this event is it gives the local businesses the opportunity to display their wares and it's really amazing the diversity of products that is available right here in our community."
Jones pointed out that some of the businesses showcasing their products and services Wednesday do very little business in the immediate area but that they are equally valued for employing local manpower which in terms of payroll contributes directly to the local economy.
"Many of these companies support the local community in many ways," Jones noted.
A business such as Glass Incorporated does just that. Robert Smith said in the beginning their business model dealt mostly with local contractors but as the years have gone by their client footprint has expanded greatly.
"Now we have expanded from Georgia to Texas," Robert Smith said while greeting friends at the company's booth. "But we still hire locally so our employees are members of the community. It all evens out."
Smith said each year Glass Incorporated looks forward to being a part of The Main Event to show their support for the community and to help the local economy prosper.
"We do this promote our business and at the same time it promotes the EMBDC and our community," said Robert Smith.