Trade show draws crowds

The Memorial Sports Centre was a beehive of activity on Friday and Saturday for the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce’s 19th-annual home and leisure show.
Chamber office manager Dawn Booth said Monday that while the attendance numbers were down slightly from last year, more than 3,000 people came through the doors in all.
“Everything went very well,” she noted. “We were very, very pleased with turnout of exhibitors, people, and volunteers.
“I’ve heard nothing but positive comments, from both exhibitors—including new exhibitors that I specifically talked to that said they’re definitely coming back next year and that’s it’s great exposure for them—and the general public, who are amazed that everything’s under one roof for the two days.”
On the down side, Booth noted few people who came to the trade show filled out comment cards before leaving and, compared to last year, gave little feedback as to what they want to see at next year’s event.
“Judging by the comments made by both the exhibitors and public visiting the many booths, I would say our show was a success,” Chamber president Christine Denby said Monday.
“A big hand should go to Dawn Booth and Kerri Dittaro, as well as the many volunteers, including Chamber directors and many others,” added Denby, who herself volunteered on Saturday morning.
The trade show featured 53 exhibitors—some of whom had more than one booth space. In Badiuk Equipment’s case, they used up the entire ’52 Canadians Arena to hold their annual boat show.
The annual event got the “thumbs up” from some of the exhibitors.
“We’ve had a great response,” said Cheryl Hagen of the Finland, Ont.-based Hagen Log Homes & Cabins—first-time exhibitors at the Fort Frances trade show.
“We’re very pleased,” noted Cliff Hagen, adding coming to the show definitely was worthwhile as it gave the company exposure to many who’d never heard of it.
“We found it’s a really good venue to showcase our new products,” said Connie Cuthbertson, owner of Northwoods Gallery & Gifts and Gourmet Outfitters.
At this year’s show, the public could follow their nose to Cuthbertson’s booth, where she and her daughter, Megan, were cooking up tasty treats using grapeseed oil on a Raclette party grill—products now on sale at Gourmet Outfitters.
“The trade show was good,” echoed Jean Richards of the Fine Line Art Gallery, which had a booth showcasing its members’ work and the gallery’s programming.
“There were a lot of people who got to see my artwork for the first time, and a lot of people who hadn’t ever heard of us before,” she added. “It was interesting and I really enjoyed it.
“I didn’t get rich, but I’d like to do it again,” Richards smiled.
Jim Kibiuk, CEO and president of the Fort Frances Power Corp., said Monday the trade show proved the perfect venue for getting out information about their current “Energy is Yours for the Savings” campaign and distributing free compact fluorescent light bulbs.
“We had a post-home show review meeting this morning [Monday] and the consensus was that it was a worthwhile venture, for sure,” he noted. “We got our message across and people were very receptive to it.
“We were very pleasantly surprised by the number of people in Fort Frances that have converted their entire home, and or have started to convert their home, to the use of compact fluorescents,” added Kibiuk.
“There was lots of good discussion amongst people about energy-saving ideas.”
In addition to the plethora of exhibitors, this year’s home and leisure show had several new features, including two photo contests that ended up drawing quite a few entries.
The “Cutest Puppy Contest,” where dog owners could enter photos of their pooches for a chance to win a huge gift basket of puppy treats and toys, saw 35 entries.
In the end, “Sandy,” owned by Linda Gretler, ended up getting the most votes (437 votes at 25 cents a vote).
“It was wonderful to organize the contest,” said Kerri Dittaro, who organized it. “It got a great response, and it was a lot of fun.”
Overall, the contest brought in $550, a portion of which will be donated to the Fort Frances Friends of Animals.
Trade show-goers also could check out the 90 entries that came in for the amateur photo contest. Pictures in three categories—home and leisure, the great outdoors, and “for kids only” (a category for district children aged 13 and under)—were on display at the arena.
Four winners were selected by a panel of judges (Times’ staffers Melanie Béchard and Heather Ogilvie, along with outdoors columnist Gord Ellis, who also gave a pair of presentations on photography and fishing on Saturday).
Robert DePlonty won the prize in the kids’ photo category while Nikki Wiedenhoeft’s photo of a little girl and a squirrel won the home and leisure category.
Sharyn Wilson won the great outdoors category with her picture of a winter sunrise.
The overall winner was a photo of a bird eating at a bird feeder taken by Heather Gunderson-Wensley.
Prizes were provided by Fort Custom Picture Framing.
The Chamber also gave out awards for the best-decorated exhibitor booths. In first place was Hagen Log Homes & Cabins, while Northwoods Gallery & Gifts and Gourmet Outfitters took second-place honours.
Daryl’s Custom Landscaping was chosen as the third-best display area.
There also was a children’s area featuring face-painting, toys, games, colouring and performances by “Grampa Magic,” as well as the ever-popular “chem-free” grad cake roulette, food for sale, draws, contests, a penny auction, and much more.
The Chamber also held a contest whereby each person who paid the $3 admission to the home and leisure show received an entry to win $1,000 in cash.
Dave Zatulsky of Fort Frances was the lucky winner.
The only hitch at the home and leisure show was the dunk tank, which had been lined up for Friday evening and Saturday as a fundraiser for the FFHS “chem-free” grad committee, Community Living Fort Frances and District, and the Fort Frances Aquanauts Swim Team.
But when the tank arrived Friday and a crew started to fill it with water, it was discovered there was a leak in it and the tank had to be removed.