If there was one key lesson to be learned from the first Carroll County Drug and Violence Awareness Expo, which was held last May at the Carroll County Agriculture Center, it's that there was an appetite for even more expo.
So, on Thursday, April 28, the Drug and Violence Expo will return for a second round with an expanded program.
"What we did is we extended the hours — last year it was 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; this year it is 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.," said Joe Tabeling, chairman of the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce's Business and Education Committee and the force behind the expo. "Last year, we had five seminars — now it's 10. Last year we had 40 exhibitors — this year it's 53."
The free expo brings together public health and law enforcement officials, parent activists, and speakers who are scheduled throughout the day and evening to address topics ranging from the dangers of prescription drug misuse, to child abuse and sexual assault, to gang violence, to seeking treatment for drug addiction or dependency. There will also be a performance by the FoolProof Improvisational Theatre Troupe and a drunk driving simulator.
The idea for the Drug and Violence Expo first came to Tabeling in late 2014 after reading about the resurgent heroin problem in Carroll County. Because he had a background in putting on expos, maybe, he thought, he could do something about the problem.
"The idea was putting on an expo that would address the issues at hand that affect businesses and the community as a whole," Tabeling said. "To allow the community to get to know the multitude of resources that are available to them."
The inaugural expo was pulled together in just a few months, with just a few weeks to advertise to the community, Tabling said, and yet 700 people turned out for the event. Given the expanded hours and broader array of offerings, he believes the expo will really take off this year — he is already getting inquiries from people in Cecil, Anne Arundel and other counties about how they can duplicate the expo model.
"We did a survey after that, and everything that people were concerned about, we made all the changes that they were asking for — more seating arrangements for eating, different types of healthier food, more interactive booths and longer hours," Tabeling said.
Returning to the expo will be Carroll County State's Attorney Brian DeLeonardo, who will close out the event with a presentation he has been giving to Carroll high school students. He said the first expo was impressive, and he is thrilled to be involved again.
"There was a lot of positive feedback last year. It was really a no-brainer for me to get involved and to help support it again," DeLeonardo said. "The business community, I think, is really seeing the benefit of helping to address the challenges we have when it comes to public safety. It's really a nice thing that they came up with this idea of trying to partner with us."
Over the past eight months, DeLeonardo has brought people in recovery from addiction to Carroll County schools to give students direct testimony on the dangers of drugs and alcohol addiction.
Closing out the expo program in the evening hours, he hopes, will give more adults a chance to see the program as well.
"The students are coming throughout the early morning and afternoon, and then, in the evening, my thought was to try to direct it more to the parents," DeLeonardo said. "A lot of the parents that have heard of the program we have done in the schools and the high schools and their kids have seen; we want to give them a chance to come and see what their kids have been seeing."
Extending the expo hours into the evening this year also sits well with Sheriff Jim DeWees, who will bring the Sheriff's Office Mobile Command Center, crime scene technicians and some K-9 demonstrations to the event.
"This gives people a chance to stop by on the way home from work, go home and have dinner, then shoot out with the kids," DeWees said. "There's something for everybody."
One of those somethings is DeWees himself: He hopes parents will take the opportunity to speak with him, with Carroll County Health Department officials, and with any other expert or elected official to ask any questions they might have about drugs, alcohol and public safety issues in Carroll.
"It's a free expo. Come and see your state's attorney, see your sheriff, and a handful of other local politicians and leaders, and ask them whatever question you want to ask them. It doesn't have to be about drugs," DeWees said. "It's a rare opportunity to get all of us together."
If you go:
What: The second Carroll County Drug and Violence Awareness Expo
When: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday, April 28
Where: Carroll County Agriculture Center Shipley Arena, 706 Agriculture Center Drive, Westminster
10:30-11 a.m.: Drug trends in Carroll County
11:15-11:45 a.m.: Youth opioid prevention
Noon-12:30 p.m.: Ganging up on drugs and violence
12:45-1:15 p.m.: Carroll County gangs awareness
1:30-2 p.m.: Understanding the impact of violence on youth
2:15-2:45 p.m.: Domestic violence and the community
3-3:30 p.m.: Rape — a silent epidemic
3:45-4:15 p.m.: Domestic violence and seniors
4:30-5 p.m.: Turning tragedy into healing by helping others
5:15-5:45 p.m.: Dispelling myths about domestic violence and child abuse
6-6:15 p.m.: Ceremony
6:30-6:45 p.m.: FoolProof Improvisational Theatre Troupe
6:45-7:30 p.m.: Special presentation with State's Attorney Brian DeLeonardo
Coming this week:
The Carroll County Times will feature a Q&A with presenters at this year's Drug and Violence Awareness Expo each day leading up to Thursday's event, culminating with coverage of the expo itself.