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Olympic figure skater Tai Babilonia, left, and entrepreneur Michele Holbook are seen at an Academy Awards event in January that featured Holebrook's gourmet popcorn in the goodie bags. Holbrook will bring samples from her Epsom business to the 18th annual Made In NH "Try It & Buy It" Expo, which kicks off Friday. (COURTESY)

Expo in Manchester shows off NH-made products

MANCHESTER - You, too, can eat the same brand of popcorn the stars received as part of the Academy Awards celebration in Hollywood.

Michele Holbrook will bring samples and for-sale bags from her Epsom business, Michele's Totally Awesome Gourmet Popcorn, to the 18th annual Made In NH "Try It & Buy It" Expo, which kicks off Friday.

The three-day event at the Radisson Hotel's expo center features more than 135 exhibitors promoting their goods and services.

"It's always important to get our popcorn in the mouths of people who've never heard of us before," Holbrook said.

Holbrook gave away goodie bags to celebrities at a gifting suite the day before the Academy Awards this year. Manchester expo attendees can try and buy the same type of popcorn "that the celebs got to munch on," including Penny Marshall, star of the 1970s and '80s sitcom "Laverne & Shirley," and Oscar Nunez of the NBC show, "The Office."

Heidi Copeland, who owns the expo event, said she sells out exhibitor space nearly every year.

"Even in the downturn, we had an uptick of exhibitors because a lot of people who lost their jobs decided to pursue their passion for creating a perfect marshmallow or some type of product," Copeland said.

"For New Hampshire residents, it's an opportunity to shop," she said. "The dollars stay local. The products that we offer there are affordable, and even if an exhibitor is offering an expensive product, they'll usually have an affordable option for someone.

"We were all about buying local before buying local was cool," she said.

The expo draws anywhere from 12,000 to 20,000 people, with "cold and dank" weather drawing the larger crowds.

Medina Mahfuz, owner of Granite State Goods, prints T-shirts at her Nashua business, including ones with the state's "Live Free or Die" motto.

Last year was her first time renting a booth at the expo.

"So far we've had a lot of luck with it," she said.

"T-shirts are something easy to buy at an event like that," she said. "We do a nice discounted rate at the event."

At least some T-shirts will cost $15 at the expo compared to $22 to $27 on the company's website.

Even if people don't buy on the spot, the company hands out items, such as bookmarks, listing the company website and sometimes distributes a coupon to boost sales.

The expo runs from 1 to 8 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Tickets cost $9 for adults, $8 for seniors 65 and older, and $3 for kids 2-12 or in a stroller.


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