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Networking party has ‘CHILLing’ feature

Cash bar. Motown grooves. Business folks. Mix together to serve up Mississippi’s biggest annual networking party — Business After Hours — at the Mississippi Business & Technology EXPO 2009.

This year, the special mid-week event begins at 5 p.m. on Jan. 15 as a seamless transition from the exhibition gallery, which will remain open throughout the two-and-a-half hour event.

“We hope everyone will be ready to party,” said John Howard Dennis, co-founder of The Chill, a popular southern rock ‘n’ roll dance band that originated in Vicksburg in 1970 and plans to stir the crowd into a frenzy with live music throughout the evening. “We’ll certainly be ready for them.”

Business Communications Inc. (BCI) and the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership are event sponsors.

“We find the EXPO to be an excellent opportunity to network with other companies while showcasing who BCI is and what we do,” said BCI’s Tom Hinds. “It’s been beneficial for us each year that we’ve attended. As a result of this, the past couple of years we chose to give back by partnering with MBJ to provide a social environment within the EXPO for professionals to meet. Business After Hours gives business people an opportunity to relax and socialize outside of the office setting, creating an occasion for a meeting that may not have happened otherwise.”

Mangia Bene Catering, the only off-premise licensed liquor caterer in Hinds County, will cater the cash bar. “We’re so thrilled to be here again,” said Jeff Good of Magnia Bene Catering, which represents Bravo!, Broad Street and Sal & Mookie’s restaurants co-founded by Good. Those restaurants are among the metro area’s finest that are providing heavy hors d’heourves for the event. “We’ve been involved with providing food service for the EXPO since the 1990s, and we’re particularly glad to provide some liquid (and other) refreshments for Business After Hours.”

Door prizes adding excitement to the event include Southwest Airlines tickets, a cruise for two from McGehee Travel and Cruise and a 42-inch plasma television from EXPO sponsor COMCAST.

“We’ll keep it fun for everyone,” said Dennis, bass guitarist and vocalist for The Chill, the six-piece band featuring horns, guitars, percussion and vocal harmony that took its name from the era-defining motion picture, “The Big Chill,” and stays booked year-round at corporate events, festivals, wedding receptions and other venues. “When the Mid South wants a party they’ll be talking about for weeks, they call us.”

Among a few fun facts about The Chill:

• The band’s first appearance was the 1984 World’s Fair in New Orleans.

• The Chill played the opening and closing nights at The Dock on the Reservoir.

• Their fans are known as Chill Bumps.

• Many original Chill members were once together in Fat Back.

• Vicksburg officials declared Sept. 15, 2007 as “The Chill Day.”

“Not only are we musicians, but we’re also business people and appreciate the networking that gets done at events like Business After Hours,” said Dennis, a technician for a Vicksburg company whose family owns the famed Toot’s Grocery.

Drummer Daniel Gilbert of Clinton doubles as a psychology professor. Keyboardist Craig Tucker of Clinton holds a master’s degree in music from Northwestern University. Lead guitarist Carl Reed of Vicksburg, who uses a Fender Telecaster guitar signed by Delbert McClinton, owns a business that relocates financially distressed vehicles. Saxophonist David Battaglia of Jackson contracts with bands across Mississippi. And lead vocalist Barry Graham of Birmingham, Ala., manages TV 23, a government access cable television station in Vicksburg.

“Come on down,” said Dennis. “We’ll get the networking going. Business After Hours is definitely the place to be.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at Lynne.Jeter@gmail.com.


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