- Written by Megan Joyce Megan Joyce
It’s time to emerge — carefully — from our virtual world.
After more than a year of being unable to safely gather in person, the 50plus EXPOs and Women’s Expos are coming back to a venue near you in 2021.
The 22nd annual Dauphin County 50plus EXPO will welcome visitors Wednesday, June 9, at the Harrisburg Mall, former Boscov’s store, 3501 Paxton St., Harrisburg.
Later that month, the 22nd annual Lancaster County 50plus EXPO (Spring) will return Wednesday, June 23, in the Expo Center at the newly renovated Wyndham Resort, 2300 Lincoln Highway East, Lancaster.
50plus EXPOs are also scheduled for the fall in York, Lancaster, and Cumberland counties.
The seventh-annual Lancaster County Women’s Expo (Spring) will return in person on Saturday, June 5, at the Wyndham Resort – Expo Center, Lancaster.
The eighth-annual Dauphin County Women’s Expo will follow on Saturday, June 19, inside the former Boscov’s store at the Harrisburg Mall.
Women’s Expos are also slated for the fall in Lebanon, Lancaster, and Cumberland counties.
All events will be held 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Donna Anderson, president and CEO of On-Line Publishers and its events division, OLP Events, said a number of factors went into the company’s decision to resume in-person events in June.
“We know local businesses and our community are eager to enjoy the expos as they have in the past, and we wanted to be sure the timing was such that we do so as safely as possible,” she said.
“We thought it prudent to wait until June so people would have the opportunity to receive the vaccine and feel more comfortable about attending events.”
During the expos, CDC and state safety guidelines will be in place, with exhibitor booth spaces distanced from each other to allow appropriate social distancing. Hand-sanitation stations will also be available throughout the facility.
As the country takes tentative steps toward reopening, Anderson said exhibitors have been overwhelmingly pleased when presented with the prospect of returning to in-person expos.
“In a word — elation,” she said of the reaction. “We’ve had very positive feedback from a majority of exhibitors. That said, there are some companies that are tentative about allowing their staff to engage in person.”
“There is nothing that can replace that interpersonal exchange and the accompanying body language when we are communicating with others,” said Betty Hungerford, development director of Homeland Center and Homeland at Home, a principal sponsor of the Dauphin County 50plus EXPO and supporting sponsor of the Dauphin County Women’s Expo.
Wendy Shumaker, Homeland’s director of marketing, echoed “how much better it is to make connections in person.
“I missed attending the expos last year, seeing everyone’s smiling faces and hearing their stories,” Shumaker said.
COVID-19 and its inherent safety concerns jettisoned most of the world’s in-person events in 2020. In a March poll of 1,776 event planners and suppliers conducted by Chicago’s Professional Convention Management Association, 66% of respondents had postponed events as a result of COVID-19; 87% said they had canceled them altogether.
Accordingly, five of OLP’s six 50plus EXPOs — as well as all of its Women’s Expos and Veterans’ Expo & Job Fairs — made the necessary jump to pandemic-friendly virtual platforms last year.
Despite the success of that necessary transition, Anderson is eager for guests and vendors alike to re-experience the undeniable benefits of face-to-face interaction.
“Our visitors depend on the information they gather at the expos to help them make decisions that enhance their lives,” she said. “Likewise, businesses rely on the connections they make at the expos for future business. It was difficult for everyone not to be able to make those personal connections since early 2020.
“It’s been a difficult year for most of us, and having the opportunity to see the engagement that will occur is what I most look forward to,” Anderson added.