The family-run 48th annual Fort Wayne Home & Garden Show, set for April 15-18, is an invitation to take a deep breath of spring after a long, strange winter. Even with COVID-19 precautions in place, the show will usher in a brighter future.
“Last year, we had our show before the shutdown,” says Becky Williamson, the third generation of her family to serve as show president. “Our focus this year is on the small businesses, who have all been so deeply affected by the pandemic. We want to give them our support, while making sure everything goes as smoothly as possible.”
Williamson has worked with the health department to ensure safety during the event, which will be from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, 4000 Parnell Ave.
Hundreds of exhibitors, most of them locally owned businesses, will promote their goods and services, including those related to kitchen, bath, landscaping, interior décor, bedding, windows, siding, roofing, gutters, patios and driveways. Some vendors will offer cash-and-carry items, including pillows, garden art, home décor, furniture, soaps and lotions; some will sell foods like pretzels, almonds, popcorn and honey.
The Garden Gallery will showcase ways to improve outdoor spaces with landscaping and water features, and will sell live plants. Yard ornaments, chimes, patio furniture, grills, firepits, outdoor kitchens, hot tubs, spas, saunas and more will be displayed as well.
Changes people can expect this year include entrance tickets timed to control crowds at peak hours; one-way aisles that encourage social distancing; hand sanitizer stations throughout the building; two entrances to better control traffic flow; no crowd-gathering stage shows; displays distanced further apart; and parts of the building will be closed off. Managers of the building have upgraded the air quality filtration system.
Curb specialist Chris Touma with Ahead of the Curb, a new locally owned business, will make his debut at the show this year.
“We really want to share our product with people who’ve come to trust the show to bring them the best vendors,” says Touma. “We’re here for the people who are serious about taking care of their property because they find value in doing so and are looking for new and innovative ways to do that.”
Ahead of the Curb specializes in handmade concrete curbs to outline paths, driveways, garden areas, flower beds and more. The designs are made from concrete but look like stone or wood edging. The product won’t rust, decompose, or break. It controls weeds and grass, reduces the need to trim and adds appeal.
Kevin Hunter, president and owner of Windows, Doors & More, says his company has appeared in the show for 38 years and has sponsored the event for 10. One person at his booth will be dedicated to keeping the touchable parts of the display clean during the event, he says.
“We believe in the show,” says Hunter. “People gather from all over the region to engage with the community and show off their work. We’re about homes and helping the people who’ve made us the largest remodeling company in the state.”
The local company opened in 1983. It manufacturers, sells and services the products it installs in homes within a 60-mile radius of Fort Wayne. Hunter estimates the home show produces about 10 percent of his business contracts every year.
Sam Badiac, executive vice president of Master Spas, says this is the 25th year his company will appear in the show. It specializes in hot tubs, swim spas and saunas.
“The home show is a great way to reach out to people looking to buy our products after a long, cold, pent-up Midwest winter,” he says.
Even if the pandemic keeps some people away from the show, he expects those in attendance to be more serious than ever about shopping.
“We can’t keep up with the demand,” he says. “People are spending more time at home and have a need for relaxation and enjoyment. They still want to entertain family and friends, even if they have to do it in their own backyards.”
The show will again donate a portion of ticket sales to Habitat for Humanity of Greater Fort Wayne, Williamson says. The non-profit organization is dedicated to eliminating sub-standard housing. In Fort Wayne, Habitat has built 250 affordable, quality homes for families of the community since 1986.
Show attendees will have many opportunities to win cash. Each hour, four “show bucks” winners will be given a $25 gift certificate to spend on any item offered by participating exhibitors.
Local radio station WAJI “Magic95.1” is offering a $1,000 giveaway. People can fill out a form online or sign up at the show.
Show tickets are $12 Thursday and Friday and $15 Saturday and Sunday; children under 15 are free; Seniors 62 and older are $8 each day. The senior discount is not available online and can only be given at the box office. Parking is $6 at the Coliseum. ❚