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Southern Illinois Made Expo draws thousands to Marion

  • Beth McNeill showed a prospective customer one of the hammocks that she and husband Dan of make and sell. The couple from Marion own and operate a small business called MCN Hammocks. They participated in the 2nd annual Southern Illinois Made Expo at The Pavilion in Marion, the brainchild of State Senator Dale Fowler. The McNeills are the epitome of small business owners, operating solely out of their Marion residence for now. Dan said that nearly all of their sales thus far occur from their website.

    Beth McNeill showed a prospective customer one of the hammocks that she and husband Dan of make and sell. The couple from Marion own and operate a small business called MCN Hammocks. They participated in the 2nd annual Southern Illinois Made Expo at The Pavilion in Marion, the brainchild of State Senator Dale Fowler. The McNeills are the epitome of small business owners, operating solely out of their Marion residence for now. Dan said that nearly all of their sales thus far occur from their website.
    Ceasar Maragni photo

  • Hannah Gentry prepares some ice cream rolls for a customer at the Southern Illinois Made Expo Saturday in Marion. Hannah works for Mr. Koolz on the Go, which provides frozen yogurt at sporting events, flea markets, birthday parties, and other fundraising events in the Southern Illinois region, including National Hunting and Fishing Days at John A. Logan College in September. For more information, go to the Mr. Koolz Frozen Yogurt and More website.

    Hannah Gentry prepares some ice cream rolls for a customer at the Southern Illinois Made Expo Saturday in Marion. Hannah works for Mr. Koolz on the Go, which provides frozen yogurt at sporting events, flea markets, birthday parties, and other fundraising events in the Southern Illinois region, including National Hunting and Fishing Days at John A. Logan College in September. For more information, go to the Mr. Koolz Frozen Yogurt and More website.
    John Homan photo

  • State Sen. Dale Fowler, R-Harrisburg, posed for a photo with Chuck Kuhns, Director of VETS 4 VETS at this weekend's  2nd annual Southern Illinois Made Expo held in Marion.

    State Sen. Dale Fowler, R-Harrisburg, posed for a photo with Chuck Kuhns, Director of VETS 4 VETS at this weekend's 2nd annual Southern Illinois Made Expo held in Marion.
    Ceasar Maragni photo

  • Linda Mehren, center, answered a question for a guest about her Golconda based business The Chocolate Factory at their booth at this weekend's 2nd annual Southern Illinois Made Expo held in Marion hosted by State Senator Dale Fowler R-Harrisburg.

    Linda Mehren, center, answered a question for a guest about her Golconda based business The Chocolate Factory at their booth at this weekend's 2nd annual Southern Illinois Made Expo held in Marion hosted by State Senator Dale Fowler R-Harrisburg.
    Ceasar Maragni photo

 
BY CEASAR MARAGNI
Contributing Writer
updated: 7/30/2019 4:08 PM

MARION -- State Sen. Dale Fowler, R-Harrisburg, was all smiles Saturday as he made his way around and among the 165 businesses and several thousand visitors to the Second Annual Southern Illinois Made Expo at The Pavilion in Marion.

After the great success of last year's inaugural expo, Fowler had a hunch that it could be even bigger this year -- and it was with over 2,000 people attending on Saturday opening and an equally large turnout was expected on Sunday, the final day of the two-day event.

Fowler came up with the idea shortly after taking office.

"We have so many amazing products and services here in Southern Illinois, and I thought this would be a great way to help them get the word out that they're here and they're thriving."

Fowler also said that all monies raised by the $5-per-person entry fee to attend would be donated to Southern Illinois Honor Flight.

Last year, they were able to raise $30,000 from ticket sales and vendor fees and Fowler felt strongly that this year's final numbers would top that.

Businesses participating in this year's expo varied in size from Marion-based Aisin Manufacturing, which employs thousands, down to smaller so-called mom-and-pop operations such as D & M Honey of Carrier Mills, whose only employees are the owners, Mike Grant and Debbie McVey.

Grant says that the expo gives them a chance to let people know who they are and what they produce, adding, "I have the bees and harvest the honey while Debbie creates all the related products we offer."

Senator Fowler spent much of Saturday greeting each of the 165 vendors at this year's expo, pausing to say, "Each vendor seems very pleased with the response of the general public and the great thing about this event is that not only do we highlight local businesses and services here in Southern Illinois, but also the fact that the money we raise here will benefit future Veterans Honor Flights in Southern Illinois. We're highlighting local businesses, we're helping honor our veterans and we're showcasing tourism. It's really a win-win for everybody."