Trade show deemed huge success

Maybe it was the weather, maybe the right mix of exhibitors and contests, or maybe just perfect timing, but this year’s Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce home and leisure show last Friday and Saturday at the Memorial Sports Centre was a big success, said organizer Dawn Booth.
“We figure there were at least 4,300 people through the doors of the Memorial Sports Centre over the two days,” she said Monday morning. “Last year, we had about 4,000.
“It was definitely one of the most successful in years.
“As to why it was so successful, I think it’s because there were so many things going on,” added Booth. “We were trying to reach a broad range of people, and I think we succeeded at that.
“Plus, there was the fact it is only held once a year. And the weather was beautiful.
“All of the exhibitors seemed to be pleased with it, too,” Booth remarked. “As a matter of fact, I already have six booked for next year.
“Overall, it went really well.”
Booth said one popular draw was the “Drive Away Hole-In-One Challenge” contest, which saw well over 400 people try to make a hole-in-one putt to get a chance to guess the five-digit code to open a “prize vault.”
Some 226 people tried to putt on Friday while 257 gave it a shot Saturday. Overall, about 125 people got a hole-in-one and had their names put in a draw.
The first 100 of those names then were drawn Saturday afternoon starting at 3 p.m. The lucky ones drawn got to take a guess at the five-digit vault code.
However, no one ended up getting it right.
“We were very, very pleased with how it turned out. It really drew the crowds,” Booth said. “Everyone was really excited about it. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a winner.
“It’s interesting that Laurie Beadle, who got a hole-in-one but wasn’t one of the 100 people who got their names drawn, had the right code. She had written it down beforehand. It’s too bad,” added Booth.
The correct five-digit code was 5-3-8-3-1, which was removed from a sealed envelope after the 100th person—Sonia Jackson—tried her hand at guessing it.
If someone had gotten the code right, they would have had a choice of one of three prizes: a Dodge 4X4 truck from West End Motors, a KIA Sorento from K-Sport Kia in Kenora, or a prize package from Badiuk Equipment, including an Alumacraft boat, a boat trailer, both a motor and trolling motor, a four-wheeler, a motorbike, a pushmower, a riding lawn mower, a brush cutter, and a chainsaw.
“We’ve already discussed it and we’ll definitely be doing something similar next year,” said Booth.
The show itself, which followed the theme “Spring Carnival,” saw more than 80 exhibitors booked in the Ice for Kids Arena and the lobby. Some had been at the trade before while others, such the Kenora-Rainy River District Alzheimer Society and Atikokan Crisis Centre to name just two, were new.
Jim Badiuk of Badiuk Equipment noted that while his business had participated in the trade show before, this was first time in a few years.
As well, having a million dollars worth of boats, motors, trailers, tractors, and recreational vehicles under a huge tent outside the arena was much more ambitious than anything they’d done in the past.
“It was a really big project. It took hours and hours to set up, and involved many, many people to haul everything to and from the site,” Badiuk noted Monday, adding staff still were getting everything back to normal at the store out on Highway 11/71 that day.
“We started setting up on Thursday morning, and worked until midnight Thursday,” he noted. “We had friends and family help out. Even after you got all the stuff there, you had to arrange it.
“And on Saturday, we also had people at the trade show volunteer to help us bring it all back. I have to thank everyone who helped out,” added Badiuk.
But all the work paid off. “We had really good traffic. We had people come out and say, ‘Wow, I didn’t know you sold all this.’ And the sales were good,” he remarked.
Also this year, three local interior designers—Jean-Marc Blanc, Tanya Dolph of Northwest Consulting Designers, and Diane Gibson of Gibson Design—were on hand to offer decorating advice by appointment.
The trio saw a total of about 15 people come to them for decorating advice—whether it was concerning fireplaces, decks, furniture placement, or colour selection—over the two days.
“I think we brought about community awareness that there is designers like us available for consultations in town,” noted Dolph.
“It’s something new we wanted to do with the trade show,” added Blanc. “Maybe more people will know about it for next year.”
Over at the Fort High “chem-free” grad committee’s booth, the popular cake roulette was held, raising about $2,100 towards the all-night party for grads next month.
Students also were selling Canada Safeway coupon books to raise money.
As Booth mentioned, the Chamber tried to “reach all ages” at this year’s trade show and give people more reasons to spend time there, with the trade show floor divided into sections for kids, seniors, women, and men.
Events geared towards specific groups included the OPP car seat clinic and “Ident-A-Kid” program, inflatable bouncers, a petting zoo, beauty tips from Celeste’s, and presentations on dispill blister packing and homeopathic herbs and vitamins from Pharmasave.
Besides some raffle prizes at individual booths, as well as a Chamber of Commerce penny auction (which featured prizes donated by local and area businesses and “went well,” said Booth), the trade show also sold passports for $2, which people could bring to each exhibitor and get stamped.
A full passport then could be entered in a draw to win a gazebo donated by Nor-Fab Building Components (Rob Storey was the lucky winner).
And Crime Stoppers’ “Bail or Jail,” which ran Friday and Saturday upstairs at the arena, ended up raising more than $12,000 (see related story elsewhere in this edition of the Times).
Like every other year, the Chamber gave awards for the best looking displays by exhibitors. This year’s first-place winner was Pinewood Sports & Marine, followed by Envision North and Pharmasave. The exhibit best following the “Spring Carnival” theme was Cheryl’s Office on Wheels.
The home and leisure show was held in the fall for many years, but switched to spring last year to coincide with the town’s centennial celebration and to help falling attendance, said Booth.
Given the success of both this one and last year’s events, the timing seems to be a key element of the winning formula, she added, noting she’s sure the trade show will take place in the spring again next year.