If you're going to throw a big fundraiser, you might as well piggyback a national conference and lure as many takers as possible. At least, that's the thinking behind Expo Alfresco 2004. The Greater Hollywood Chamber of Commerce's annual schmooze fete enters its ninth year with the usual trade booths, food tasting, and live music for locals. "It began as an outdoor networking event, which kept getting bigger and bigger, and now it's an entertainment event," says Rozeta Rad, director of tourism for the chamber. But this year volunteers might stand a little straighter since "company's" coming.
For the first time, the Chamber of Commerce is doubling up with the City of Hollywood and various civic associations to have Expo Alfresco kick off the 29th Annual Neighborhoods USA (NUSA) Conference. Hosting the conference is a virgin coup for Hollywood, and marrying the two events will add 1,200 to 1,600 attendees to the 3,000 who typically take over Harrison Street each year. NUSA provides a platform for neighborhood organizations in 30 cities across the country to network and exchange ideas about bettering communities. This year's theme is "Bridging Cultures in Our Communities," with dialogue focusing on successful collaborations of diversity. "These are grassroots individuals and members of local government coming together to talk about neighborhood and community issues," says Jeannette Smith, director of housing enhancement for the Department of Housing and Community Redevelopment in Hollywood. "It's also an opportunity for residents coming from all over the United States to get a taste of Hollywood." Conference participants from Birmingham, Alabama; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Portland, Oregon; and others will tour selected Hollywood neighborhoods, including Liberia and historic Hollywood Lakes. This year, Expo Alfresco added "Hollywood Boulevard Bash," where more than ten booths will showcase these and other neighborhood associations.
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More than 50 exhibitors will show their wares, along with another 50 eateries from the Greater Hollywood area who'll be dishing out tastings -- all for one admission price. And it's not just meat on a stick. Sushi Blues Café will be there, along with Amazing Chocolates, British Marketplace, Luce, Universe Café, and Harrison Wine Gallery. Entertainment includes live performances by Night Runner, Irbs & Spices, and the Fabulons, as well as Native Village's live animal display for kids and a ski slope formed from five tons of blown ice. If you're looking for a little eye candy, the Miss Florida USA Pageant contestants usually frolic for photo ops at this event. A portion of the proceeds from Expo Alfresco will benefit the homeless and Broward Outreach Center in Hollywood. -- Michele D. Omenson