Wednesday, April 24, 2024

It’s a jungle out there

Staff Writer | March 21, 2024 1:20 AM

MOSES LAKE — The 2024 Business Safari Expo was, well, a roaring success, according to organizers.

“This is the biggest one we have had to date,” said Debbie Doran-Martinez, executive director of the Moses Lake Chamber of Commerce, which puts on the event.

The expo filled the Commercial and 4-H buildings at the Grant County Fairgrounds with nearly 100 exhibitors and more than 700 attendees, Doran-Martinez said. Some wore animal costumes to match the safari theme, including several who wore boards around their necks to make their heads appear to be mounted trophies.

The expo was an expanded version of the chamber’s monthly Business After Hours event, with food catered by Michael’s On The Lake and drinks provided by Shenaniganz. 

One of the businesses represented was Okanagan Specialty Fruits, which opened its Moses Lake apple packing plant last year.

“We've actually gone to every single booth and handed out some apples,” said Okanagan Specialty Fruits Safety Coordinator Pedro Barreras. “We've got three different varieties here: our Granny (Smith), our Golden (Delicious) and our Fuji. So you're looking at tart, medium, and sweet.”

At least 50 people had come by the booth in the first hour or so of the expo, Barreras said, to collect 2-ounce samples of the fruit. Okanagan Specialty Fruits is expanding to offer Pink Lady, Gala and Honeycrisp apples, he added. 

There was plenty to do as well as to see at the expo. Samaritan Healthcare had its robotic surgery apparatus set up in the middle of the Commercial Building to allow attendees to try their hand at operating it. There was a radio-controlled car race that threaded its way through the booths, and the Big Five hunt that sent people all over the expo in search of stuffed animals.

“In safari world, there's the big five that you search for when you go on a game safari,” Doran-Martinez said. “So we hid those five animals — the lion, the leopard, the elephant, the rhino and the water buffalo — (at booths in) in both buildings, so there was one of each in the Commercial (Building) and one of each in the 4-H Building. We wanted to get people exposed to as many of the booths as possible. We hid binoculars and a safari hat as well, so there were a total of seven things in the Big Five hunt.”

Hunters who found one of the beasts filled out a card showing where they had bagged it, and were entered into drawings for prizes. It was more difficult than it sounded, according to Chamber Marketing Director Lori Robins.

“We had 200 people participate in the hunt and only 45 cards were turned in complete,” Robins wrote in an email to the Columbia Basin Herald.

Next year, Doran-Martinez said, the Chamber is going to expand the expo even more.

“We're going to add eight more booth opportunities because we did turn businesses away,” she said. “We didn't have enough booths for them to display. So we're gonna reconfigure things a little and we know we can add eight more.”

The theme of next year’s Expo will be construction, she added.

“It's all about networking,” said Columbia Basin Allied Arts Director Shawn Cardwell, who was staffing the CBAA booth. “It's all about meeting those businesses you've been wanting to reach out to but you don't have to want to drive across town to see. They’re all in one place.”

Joel Martin may be reached via email at

    Pedro Barreras, safety coordinator for Okanagan Specialty Fruits, gives a packet of apples to Laura Silvers of Avamere at the Moses Lake Chamber of Commerce’s Business Expo Tuesday.
    Brooke Richardson won the radio-controlled car race, which sent tiny vehicles and their drivers dashing through the crowds at the Business Expo Tuesday.

    The team from REC Silicon won the award for Best Booth at the Moses Lake Business Expo Tuesday.