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(INDIANAPOLIS) – The Indiana Convention Center is hosting its first trade show since the pandemic began.

Indy has hosted 100 small conventions in the last year despite the pandemic. VisitIndy senior vice president Chris Gahl says those gatherings, and the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, sent a message the city could host events safely. Last fall, the National Confectioners Association took notice, and contacted Indy about moving its annual Sweets and Snacks show here.

Confectioners senior vice president Chris Gindlesperger says the group was impressed by the Convention Center’s investment in sanitizing stations and other COVID-19 safety measures. For the Sweets and Snacks show, the center has implemented more safety measures at the group’s request, requiring masks, health screenings and social distancing. And the tasting of samples of chocolate, popcorn and other treats — a critical feature as buyers consider what to order — continues with individually wrapped portions.

The three-day show brings 450 exhibitors and eight-thousand attendees to downtown Indy. Just as last year’s events helped bring the candy makers to Indy, Gahl says the hope is that this show will lead to others — as well as a return visit from the candy companies.

Gahl says Indy’s been trying for years to lure the show away from Chicago, its home since 1997. The confectioners’ contract there runs two more years, but Gahl says Indy’s hoping to become the new host city in 2024.