If the newsroom encounters a problem, such as a story falling through very late in production, then I can navigate around the obstacle like a seasoned Starfleet captain. But if left to my own devices in the real world, I’m playing bumper cars.
Take our very successful Thrive Over 55 Senior Expo. Hundreds of older adults came to connect with about 60 vendors March 29 at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews. Great event, but let me go on a self-deprecating rant first.
I had map duty, which involved finding vendors with confused looks on their faces and directing them to their booths to set up. Despite my disheveled look that morning, a few vendors assumed I knew what I was doing. I didn’t.
Little do my coworkers know how much I struggle at any map that tells me, “you are here.” Whether I’m at Carolina Place Mall or The Ballantyne, I always have to envision myself as that dot on the map and trace my finger from the “you are here” symbol to my destination. I’ve just never been good with directions or maps. I love you, Google.
A couple of the vendors told me they needed electricity, but they weren’t near an outlet. This required me to find an adult, such as our publisher, Adrian Garson, to see if we could accommodate these adjustments.
On one of my frantic searches to find Adrian, I noticed Parks and Ann Mangum entering the lobby area about an hour early.
“We don’t like to be late, that’s for sure,” Ann told me. Turns out, the couple drove from Monroe to be at the event.
The Mangums pick up Union County Weekly at the Spiro’s Hilltop Fish Fare & Steakhouse, on East Roosevelt Boulevard, which is about as far east as our circulation goes. Sometimes, they may pick up a copy at the nearby Showmars.
Ann recalled a bumbling gentleman on the phone when she registered for the expo that sounded an awful lot like me.
“This is the second time we’ve been,” Ann said. “Y’all just have a really good thing here.”
A few minutes later, I ran into a lady waiting outside one of the locked doors. She had arranged for Charlotte Area Transit System to deploy a Special Transportation Service shuttle to drop her off and pick her up at that very spot.
She snapped at me as I tried to escort her to the front of the building to where the registration table was located.
“How am I supposed to wait for my transportation to pick me up?” she asked. “I should have stayed home.”
After the vendors were situated, I walked from booth to booth trying to get candid photos of seniors interacting with vendors. I posted a bunch of them on our Facebook page.
Eventually, I made my way to the chapel to help Adrian with the breakout sessions. I enjoy helping with these because I learn something from them. We heard financial tidbits from Clear Income Strategies Group, senior living options from Cresswind Charlotte and vacation trends from Mann Travels.
The best part was giving out the free raffle tickets. I scoff whenever I hear someone say you can’t get anything for free. For starters, you can get the Weekly. Then there’s the expo, where we give out free breakfast, free lunch and free prizes.
People seem excited when I hand them a free raffle ticket. It’s almost like I’m giving them hope.
Ray Mennitt, of Matthews, won a maroon rocking chair with our logo on it, while other people received mouthwatering prizes like free Bundt cakes for a year from Nothing Bundt Cakes! I think I gasped when I heard about that prize.
The breakouts weren’t without hiccups. During the first session, a lady that had been separated from her daughter for too long started to get worried. We reconnected them.
At the end of the expo, I ran into that same lady that yelled at me. I stayed with her for about 20 minutes until the shuttle came to pick her up. The New York native told me that people were so nice down here. She left in good spirits and so did I.
A lot of other people did more than I did at the expo.
The business side of the office took the lead on organizing it. If I couldn’t find Adrian, then I tried to find sales executive Kate Kutzleb. The newsroom helped serve breakfast and lunch from the Mint Hill Publix store.
Volunteers with Uwharrie Bank and The Sandbox, including Executive Director Mara Campolungo, helped execute the event. Others, not affiliated with any particular company, pitched in, as well.
We hope to see everyone in September when we host our next senior expo. We’ll publish details about it closer to the event.