The Idea That Became an Event
September 02, 2017
By Chad Sparks, McLean County Senior Expo
It all started with a casual, unscheduled conversation in a small, second story office at Calvert & Metzler Memorial Home. The idea had been simmering for some time in the mind of Alex Calvert. Alex and his father, Larry, have always had a passion for family and community, and the relationships that have been built upon trust and friendship throughout the Calvert Funeral Homes have only strengthened this claim. Ideas and opportunities to benefit their respective communities were not uncommon, yet this idea was different than any Alex had previously considered. Alex had long envisioned hosting a senior expo — an event that would serve the senior adult population throughout Bloomington-Normal and surrounding communities.
The conversation that came from his original idea naturally commenced, and questions between both of us abounded. Since I had joined the Calvert Funeral Home team in 2007, ideas to serve our communities had regularly been posed. Yet, none of them carried the physical and financial burden that would emanate from an event like this. We asked sincerely, “Can we do this? How would we do this? Would anyone have an interest in this?” As hard as we tried, we could not answer “no” to any of these queries. It was at that point that the McLean County Senior Expo was born.
In October of 2008, the event was introduced to approximately 500 senior adults who witnessed a sold-out roster of central Illinois vendors at Bloomington’s DoubleTree Hotel and Conference Center. Amazed at the interest of both visitors and vendors, we quickly ascertained that (as the old adage goes) “the show must go on.” Subsequently, the event sold out quicker, the crowds became larger, and ultimately, a move to a larger venue was forced. Illinois State University’s Bone Student Center was chosen as the new site and more opportunities for vendors and visitors were introduced. For the past three years, the McLean County Senior Expo has called Bone Student Center “home”, and attendees were offered more Money Seat Seminar and Bingo seats, a wider array of Taste of the Expo food samples, and more opportunities to win cash and prizes. Yet, even with the success and growth of the event, something was still missing.
Since its inception, Alex and I had unanimously agreed to make the event financially affordable and physically accessible to all vendors and visitors; a model that included free admission and parking for our guests in a venue that would feature ample seating and handicap accessibility. In addition, we agreed that the Expo must provide a charitable service to our communities. We knew about the Interstate Center in Bloomington and its convenient location, massive parking lot, and single-level accessibility. We did not know, however, about the additional space that was readily available. The idea of a community food drive had been considered for some time, but the physical limitations of past venues limited our ability to fulfill this vision. Immediately after the 2016 McLean County Senior Expo, a decision was made to move the Expo one final time and integrate our newest idea (the Calvert Cares Community Food Drive) into our established event.
On Wednesday, September 6th from 9am to 2pm at the Interstate Center in Bloomington, we will celebrate the ten-year anniversary of the McLean County Senior Expo with the largest and most exciting offering yet. The Calvert Cares Community Drive, which benefits Midwest Food Bank and all McLean County food pantries, will encourage senior adults to attend the Expo and donate non-perishable food items for prize opportunities. While there, attendees will enjoy a host of new offerings, including a Classic Car Contest, the Miller Park “Zoo to You” Animal Meet and Greet, picnic in the pavilion, food trucks (where lunch can be purchased), and Silent Bingo. In addition, vendors and visitors alike will experience a new assortment of Taste of the Expo food samples, a larger Bingo and Money Seat Seminar room, and more seating located in and around the venue.
A conversation in a small office evolved into a community event at one of McLean County’s largest venues. Larry and Alex Calvert, who coincidentally built a business on a genuine concern and care for family and community, are now entertaining, educating, and feeding thousands of people in their communities. After ten years, the question abounds, “What comes next?” Likely, the answer to that question will come in the form of a large idea that will be heard in a small office, and as with all Calvert Funeral Home promotions, it will assuredly benefit central Illinois families and communities.
Chad Sparks is the Public Relations Director at Calvert Funeral Homes and the Event Coordinator of the McLean County Senior Expo. For more information about the event, you may call 309-827-7577 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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