GORHAM — One Saturday every March, the place to see and be seen in Gorham is at the Field House on the University of Southern Maine campus.

It has nothing to do with the students, who are on break anyway. It has everything to do with Gorham Marketplace, which draws out dozens of businesses and hundreds of residents.

Goody bags in hand, residents check out the chiropractor’s booth, where a woman was getting her spine aligned at midday Saturday, buttonhole the town manager and pick up lots of free stuff from dozens of merchants. While the kids can jump in the moon bounce, the grown-ups can grab a cold one at the beer garden — new this year — and anyone can settle into a seat to watch a dance troupe on stage.

The marketplace has been growing since it began 13 years ago as a way to promote local businesses, said Rob Lavoie, co-chair of this year’s event.

Lavoie said 81 businesses rented a booth last year and 91 did this year — and it seems like the number of residents tromping through the cavernous field house grows each year as well.

“We’ve got everything from pumps and filters (offered by a plumbing service) to chiropractors to a bank.” he said, plus contractors, landscapers and even a pre-paid legal service.

Town Manager David Cole was showing off plans for the new elementary school, which is under construction and scheduled to open in the fall of 2011.

“It’s good to be able to talk to people who get to see me in some other position than on my fanny behind my desk,” said Cole.

Gorham residents seem to appreciate the chance to stretch their legs and stop to chat up town officials after a long winter, he said.

“We don’t sell anything. It’s not like I have something to give away,” Cole said. ” But people tell me, ‘It was good to see you there.’ “

Town councilor Matt Mattingly, who shared town of Gorham booth duties with Cole on Saturday, said it the gathering gives people an excuse to buttonhole a city official.

“We see people who wouldn’t go out of their way to hunt us down, but they say, ‘There’s something I want to mention,’ ” he said.

Matt Duplisea said he and his wife like to get out and check out the marketplace with their two young children.

The family goody bag was stuffed with a couple of balloon animals, piggy banks and a couple of toy firefighter’s helmets, and they were just getting started.

Going to the Gorham Marketplace has been an annual event for the family since they moved to Gorham seven years ago, Duplisea said.

“Friends said it was a great thing to go to every year and get exposed to a lot of local companies and meet your neighbors,” he said.

And it’s worked, he added, noting that he’s had Dunbar Water out to do some work on his water system at the house and a few years back hired another general contractor that he met at the show for some work.

 

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

emurphy@pressherald.com