BY KATHRYN HRYCUSKO
Special to the VOICE
It was just about a capacity crowd that filled the new community centre this past weekend to attend the 24th annual Pelham Home and Garden Show. Hosted by the Kinsmen Club of Fonthill & District, the event brought together 81 vendors this year, an all-time high, many of them Pelham- based companies, to show off their wares and services.
Even though the event was called a home and garden show, vendors offered a wide range of services, including insurance, financial advice, hearing aids, barbecues, lawn equipment, hot tubs, flowers, home decor, and services including garage door installation, construction, and even funerary services.
Previous years have seen as many as 1,200-1,300 come through the doors over the course of the event.
Despite being held over two days this year, rather than the traditional three, Kinsman Doug Freeland said that the group expected attendance would be “in the 2000s this year.”
By 1:30 Saturday afternoon, Kinsman Brian Iggulden said attendance had already matched the usual Friday and Saturday numbers combined from previous years.
Freeland suspected the number of visitors could be even higher because the community centre also offers benefits that the old Pelham Arena on Haist Street, the venue for the show in the past, did not.
“We could be even higher only because there is another event upstairs here tomorrow,” said Freeland. “The Kinette’s ‘Pamper Me Sweet’ is on and there is a significant basketball tournament going on here as well. So we’re expecting in the building to have between three and four thousand.”
Even first thing Saturday morning people had started to wander in from elsewhere in the building. Girls dressed in basketball uniforms clutched free bags and water bottles from various vendors.
Since it was the first year that the show has been held in the new centre, vendors were eager to see the venue, many of them expressing their admiration of the facilities, particularly in comparison to the old arena.
“Last year we were having buckets everywhere because the roof was leaking,” said Moe Beaudoin, of Foundation Waterproofing. “Everyone wants to come and see the new arena. So I’m hoping that it’s going to bring out a lot of people.”
Fonthill scout leader Kent Ratcliffe also remembered the leaky roof of the old arena, and said that the new arena looked “fantastic.” He said that the show demonstrated that the new centre had many uses, and that it “could be used for more than just hockey.”
Matthew Jansen, a Pelham resident and employee of Ben Berg, a Wainfleet based company that sells farm and industrial equipment, said the change in venue was part of what prompted them to return to the show after an absence of a few years. He was also there to promote new equipment, including an automatic lawn mower that drew crowds of older citizens who stared in disbelief, jumping a little when it drove onto their toes.
For the vendors it is a good opportunity to promote their business and make connections with the local community as well as other business owners.
First time attendant Chris McCartney, of 9 Round, a new gym in Fonthill, said that they had seen the signs for the show around town and decided to attend to “try and boost business.”
Although Kinsman Dave Ripley estimated that about 20 of the vendors were new to the show this year, many of the have been coming to the event for the past several years.
Moe Beaudoin of Foundation Waterproofing said he has been coming for eight years.
“This is the only home show I do, because it’s non-profit,” he said. “You start knowing all the vendors. It’s kind of like you’re going to hang out with them and it’s very friendly.”
Just inside the entrance to the show, some members of the Pelham Garden Club could be heard laughing and joking, exchanging their favourite gardening quotes at their colourful booth. The Kinsmen asked them several years ago to be a part of the show.
“They wanted to put the ‘garden’ back in it,” said member Trish Rybski.
Jason Longhurst, Fire Prevention Officer for the Pelham Fire Department, said that they have been attending the event for a number of years as well. It is an ideal place for the department to promote fire safety.
“It gets a lot of people… for the two days it’s a good venue for us to get out and promote fire safety with the people there,” said Longhurst. “Older people, children, you have all ages stopping by.”
In addition to businesses, local community groups were at the event as well.
The Fenwick Lions were selling tickets to win a 1971 Chevelle, whose bright red finish attracted many stares. They plan to donate the proceeds from their ticket sales to local charities, including those for therapy dogs.
Elsewhere, Linden McLaren, a Beaver with the 3rd Fonthill Scouting, chatted with visitors and showed them how Beavers do a beaver slap, while handing out pamphlets for the Scouts’ mulch sales.
“It’s great local community stuff,” said Mike Konderka of Enviro Niagara, this year’s title sponsor of the show.
Overall, this is the Kinsmen’s goal for the event.
“The home show came about because we were looking, truthfully, for an event that would help us to bond with the business community and the community at large,” said Kinsmen Doug Freeland.
“What could we do to bring people together in a social environment, a bonding environment, a relationship that brought as many people together in one place, and at the same time show some form of financial benefit where we can take it a step further and do some really wonderful things in the community.”
For the first time the show had no admission fee, with the Kinsmen instead asking visitors to donate to Pelham Cares.
“There are many, many other groups that benefit from the show,” said Freeland. “Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, seniors groups, Pelham Library, Welland Hospital.”
Kinsmen Dave Ridley said he thought many attend because they know that the event benefits the community.
“I think that also the fact that proceeds are going to Pelham Cares makes a difference, especially in the community for the locals.”