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There has been a buzz in the air for months regarding the rare opportunity in the Orangeburg area to see a total solar eclipse.

Just more than a week before Monday's big event, the annual Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce Business Expo took offered a pre-eclipse trip "Out of This World."

Hundreds of individuals and business professionals got to mingle and network at The Community Center as part of the 17th annual expo.

Stars and galaxies far, far away were all on display at this year's event, which provided attendees an opportunity to learn about the various businesses and services available in the Orangeburg area.

Local businesses were all about showing how their particular business is "Out of This World."

Sallie Dent Porth, founder of Sallie's Greatest Jams & Simple Syrups, featured her product at the expo for the first time this year. She has been in business for eight years.

Based out of Cameron, Porth had initially been shown on Oprah's Favorite Things and received a Garden & Gun's "Made in the South Award" for the business in 2012 though sales locally were down.

"This is an area I had opened up an account and it closed," Porth said. "Now I have four accounts in Orangeburg. Over the last couple of months, Orangeburg has been very good to me."

The business sells a number of herbal fruits and jams including blueberry-lavende, lemon fig-basil and peach pepper-ginger.

The syrups include a blackberry spice-sage called "Over the Carolinas" for the eclipse and the new Darius Rucker's Backstage Southern Whiskey that was recently launched.

Kim Sprenger O'Cain, owner of Kim's Professional Painting, specializes in residential and commercial interior and exterior painting.

O'Cain's business is based in Charlotte. She opened in Orangeburg earlier this year.

"I think it is important for me to get out in the community to let folks meet me and see that there is a new kid in the town," she said.

Since her opening in Orangeburg, she has painted six houses in the area and other contracts are pending.

"We seem to be filling that niche of folks that want somebody that actually returns their phone calls, shows up when they are supposed to and offers fair prices," O'Cain said.

The chamber expo has drawn nearly 700 people in the past few years. About 80 vendors were in attendance. Last year, there were 67.

It is the fourth year the event was open to the public. Previously it had only been open to chamber members.

Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce President Melinda Jackson said the business expo is always a special event for Orangeburg County businesses.

"This time around, we have 16 new businesses," Jackson said.

Also new this year was Retail Row, where six businesses sold their products.

"That has been pretty cool and pretty interesting," Jackson said.

For the first time, the expo was held at the facility on Five Chop Road. In past years, it was held in The Cinema at the Orangeburg Mall.

"This place is huge," Jackson said. said. "We love the Cinema but we outgrew it last year. This is really the biggest venue that I think we have in Orangeburg right now. It is very well done."

The new venue received praise for its space and acoustics.

A sampling from various local restaurants and caterers was also served. And there was an opportunity for individuals to win prizes.

The presenting sponsor for the expo was the Orangeburg Department of Public Utilities. Co-sponsors were Fatz Cafe, Zeus Industries and First Citizens Bank.

Contact the writer: gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.

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Business Reporter

Gene Zaleski is a reporter/staff writer with The Times and Democrat.

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