CINCINNATI -- Never underestimate the power of a conversation between two friends from church, especially when those friends are Kathye Lewis and Miriam Kinard.
After talking about how the city needed a holiday showcase for businesses owned by African-Americans, they decided to create one.
Called Halle-Bration, the free event started in 2013 at New Vision United Methodist Church in Bond Hill with 30 vendors and a few hundred people in attendance. The fifth-annual event will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday Dec. 9 at the church and is expected to have between 800 and 1,000 people in attendance.
“We’re glad to make it to five,” Lewis said.
The first 200 children at the event will get a free toy. Santa Claus will be there. Local artist Annie Ruth will be teaching kids Christmas crafts. There also will be presentations on the meaning of Christmas and the meaning of Kwanzaa.
There will be several new features, too. Guests will receive a brochure listing all 70 participating vendors to make it easier to do business with them all year long. And at 1:30 p.m. Bootsy Collins will hold a listening party for his new CD called “World Wide Funk.”
“We’re very excited about that because Bootsy’s in the house, and all the funkateers will be in the house, too,” Lewis said.
Kelvin Washington has been part of Halle-Bration each year since it started.
Washington is the owner of Kalawentz Naturals/ Black & Bossie LLC, which makes and sells natural hair care products from its Kennedy Heights storefront.
“You get so much bang for your buck when you go to Halle-Bration,” Washington said. “You can expect a crowd. You can expect to make money. You can expect to network.”
Deborah Hilson will be selling her handmade dolls at Halle-Bration, too. She also has been a vendor at the event since the first year.
“You meet a lot of different people that come up and say, ‘I like your dolls. I want to order a whole bunch of them,’” said Hilson, whose company is called Positively No Excuses Art with Purpose.
Thanks in part to Halle-Bration, Hilson now has a group of collectors from across the country that own five or more of her dolls.
“It’s been wonderful, and I hope it continues,” she said of Halle-Bration.
The event has expanded since the Collective Empowerment Group and the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky African American Chamber became sponsors a couple of years ago. This year’s sponsors also include Main Source Bank and Ellington Management Services .
New Vision United Methodist Church in Bond Hill, where Lewis and Kinard both are members, has been a sponsor from the start.
The event will be on two floors of the church this year and will include service businesses such as a marketing firm, an insurance agency, a community bank and a funeral home, among others.
“People can come see 70 vendors at one time and be in an environment that’s fun and safe, and you don’t have to traipse all over town,” Lewis said.
Lewis said the goal is to make the event even bigger next year, possibly by holding it over several days or over multiple weekends.
“We’re going to see how we grow,” she said.
The event is free. Guests are asked to bring a canned good to help support New Vision United Methodist Church’s food pantry.
More information about Halle-Bration can be found on the church’s website .
Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region – to celebrate what makes the Tri-State great and shine a spotlight on issues we need to address. She has been writing about women- and minority-owned businesses in Greater Cincinnati for 20 years. To read more stories by Lucy, go to www.wcpo.com/may . To reach her, email email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.