TAYDIE McANDIE takes her turn on the runway during the fashion show portion of Saturday’s N.E. Oregon Bridal Show Saturday at the Blue Mountain Conference Center in La Grande. CHRIS BAXTER / The Observer photos
Brides-to-be connect with local businesses at Northeast Oregon Bridal Show
Anyone thinking love, romance and marriage are dead would have had their notions dispelled in a big way Saturday, had they shown up at the Northeast Oregon Bridal Show in the Blue Mountain Conference Center.
Throngs of people including brides-to-be, bridegrooms-to-be, parents, preachers, prospective bridesmaids, flower girls, ushers, and in-laws showed up to browse vendor booths showing off everything from wedding cakes to real estate, photo and video services to gold and diamond jewelry.
There were door prize drawings, and a wedding fashion show, and hardly room enough to walk between the 60-plus booths set up for the occasion. This was a celebration of marriage on a grand scale, and it wasn’t hard to tell the soon-to-be wed from those who were “just browsing, thank you.”
At the door, all the girls set to marry in the near future were issued pink shopping bags.
A lady with just such a badge of honor was La Grande registered nurse Kathy Mallory, whose date at the altar with Jesse McDonald is Oct. 20, 2012. Mallory had won a gift basket and was happy with that. She was also happy with the world of wedding possibilities she was bringing home with her.
“I was just kind of looking at what’s available, and there was more than I expected,” she said. “I think it’s one of the best conventions for young girls in the area.”
The fair is the brainchild and labor of love of Kathy O’Neal, a local wedding planner who believes not only in heightening the nuptial experience, but also in striking a blow for local business and commerce. Taking a break from her hectic day, she paused and looked around and judged that the turnout for the second annual running of the show was “amazing.”
“My vision was for many businesses to come out and show what they have. This lets the brides know what resources are available to them in the community and the region, and it supports business and the economy,” she said.
O’Neal said it costs a pretty penny for businesses to set up booths at similar events in the big cities, but here it’s affordable. For this year’s event, booth rental started at $85, and the top price was $150. It’s just a little money for a lot of precious advertising, and local businesses appreciate the deal.
“A lot of shows are $600, $800, even $1,000. We keep the booth rates down, so our vendors generously donate for the gift certificates and baskets,” O’Neal said.
Most of the vendors on hand weren’t looking to do on-the-spot business and go home with a pocketful of cash. Stewart Jones, for one, displayed some of the stunning gold and platinum jewelry he makes in his Indigo Gallery in Joseph, planting ideas in people’s heads.
“Most of the brides here today already have their rings, but there are other people who are thinking about the future,” Jones said.
That was the practical, business side of Jones showing. He added that he comes to the bridal show to partake in the pleasantries as well.
“Everybody who walks past has a smile. I just enjoy that,” he said.
Ron Osterloh and K.C. Kunkle, partners in Flashback Photo and Video, also had a table set up display their work and maybe land some business for some upcoming knot-tying. Osterloh said the show adds up to a lot of exposure for the enterprise.
“We get the chance to show our stuff. People see our work and talk to us and find out what kind of people we are,” he said.
And speaking of the visual arts, Brent Clapp, owner of Brent Clapp Media Services, came loaded for bear. He set up the tall camera crane he uses to get unique perspectives on all the things he films or photographs, including weddings. Clapp spent the day demonstrating how it swoops up and down, and sweeps sideways.
He said he does a lot of work filming television commercials, but weddings are an important part of his business, too.
“This is the only event that exposes you directly to so many brides,” Clapp said.
Local vendors and brides-to-be mingled and talked over ideas in the huge Northeast Oregon Bridal Show Saturday at the Blue Mountain Conference Center.
Of course, Serendipity, La Grande’s specialty bridal and formal wear shop, was on hand, and so was Gilstrap Winery, purveyor of home-grown wines. All around the room there were travel agents, massage therapists, innkeepers, party planners, caterers, candy makers, beauticians, and florists. Jim Ward, owner of a new business called Win-Dee Lofts, even brought along a couple of the snow white pigeons he releases in a flurry during weddings and other ceremonies.
The show was everything romance and love and marriage, and the center of attention, the reason for it all, said O’Neal, were the brides.
“It’s a one-stop shop where they can come and be pampered for a day,” she said.