Come One, Come All
There aren't many consumer shows where home decor folks mingle with mussel harvesters, recreational vehicle dealers model their horsepower just feet away from actual live horses, and joyful kids with painted faces whiz overhead on a zipline. Actually, there's no other place than the Downhome Expo. And that's exactly what organizers were going for when they first launched the show five years ago. âItâs a consumer show unlike any other, where thereâs something there for the whole family. So that mom isnât tugging on dad to leave and go to the mall. And the kids arenât tugging on mom and dad because theyâre bored,â says Todd Goodyear, chief operating officer of Downhome Inc. âI think most people come to the Expo and walk away like, âWow, thereâs no other show like that.ââCompany president Grant Young is understandably proud of what Downhome has achieved with the Expo. It was conceived as another way to diversify the business, which includes retail stores, product distribution and, of course, Downhome magazine, Home & Cabin and many other publications. Says Grant, âConsumer shows are a natural expansion of magazine businesses these days - just look at what the Cottage Life show has done for that magazineâs brand - and we felt a lifestyle show representing the diversities of our province was a good opportunity to expand our identity and raise our profile.â The Newfoundland ponies will be back at the Expo this year, hoping to make some new friends. Immediately after the first Downhome Expo in 2012, the company knew they had hit it out of the park. âRight from our first show, the exit surveys were outstanding! The comments from the vendors were the same thing: they liked the creativity we put into the show and the energy we put into the show,â says Grant. One of the vendors whoâs been at every show and will be there again this year is Billy Boot, the Newfoundland and Labrador iconic garbage bag brand. Owner Chris Hutton says about his experience, âItâs been excellent. Itâs a very interactive, hands-on show. Thatâs what I like about it.âHe adds, âMost of the booths are, for the most part, interactive. People arenât just walking by looking at doors and windows. Theyâre talking to people, thereâs stuff to buy and sell.â For Grant, Downhome Expo weekend has become his favourite time of the year. âItâs the energy, the people, the interaction - itâs just the whole event. Itâs my favourite part of our business because thereâs so much interaction, so much energy over three days.âPutting off a show The week leading up to the Expo is always a blur, Todd says, with organizers putting in late hours to get the space ready. But any pain is worth the gain when the last curtain is up and they open the doors to the public. âThe transformation always blows me away,â he says. âAlthough Iâm there every step of the way, for 12 and 16 hours a day, from Monday to Friday, I appreciate how different the arenas look when I see the faces of those who walk in for the first time that weekend. Thatâs when you realize this is a big thing.âFrom the outside, itâs a hockey arena; on the inside, once you walk through the first set of curtains, itâs almost a carnival atmosphere. Everywhere you look thereâs something going on, from Hot Wheels races and paintball in one end, to RV tours and service dogs, to food samples, product demonstrations and handmade art and crafts. And the thrilling zipline (pictured left) is always a hit. Standing out in the crowd are the bright yellow shirts of the showâs volunteers. âThe weekend of Expo is hosted by all the Downhome staff. And they get excited about it. Itâs a lot of fun, itâs high energy, fast-paced,â Todd says. âAnd the compliments we get back from the people who attend and our vendors, who see us as a group in our team T-shirts - it hits home once again that this is our show; we put this off. It makes us very proud and so itâs very rewarding.âGrant says the company comes together as a team to make this event successful, with one main goal in mind. âEveryone needs to come in and be happy, from the vendors to the consumers,â Grant says. âTheyâve got to come in and be impressed and leave and be impressed, and like Todd said, thatâs a lot of work. But thatâs a commitment from the core team and our staff.âWhile there are many loyal, repeat vendors at every Downhome Expo, each year is always different in some way from the last. Itâs reliable as a fun, family event, but not predictable. For that reason, the Expoâs template isnât set in stone; itâs always being changed to stay fresh.âWeâve kept the best and shed the rest, and we keep adding other creative items. And if they work, we keep those components,â Grant says. âItâs evolving into a tighter, more succinct show with more content people will appreciate. If people donât like something, itâs dropped and Downhome Expo tries something new.â The fishing simulator lures in the big kids trying to land first prize. For instance, the original petting zoo was replaced last year by Newfoundland ponies. The ponies will be back this year, and thereâll be a return of the much-loved childrenâs fun zone from a few years ago. The Marketplace debuted last year, featuring a wide range of entrepreneurs selling their wares, from baked treats and exotic hot foods, to original artwork and handmade jewellery, and more. It proved wildly popular and is returning this year bigger and better. âYou leave the event feeling like it's money well spent and time well spent. And you will have learned a few things about some products and youâll have seen a smile on your childâs face,â Grant promises. Todd adds, âItâll be a show like no other.âCome on in to the Downhome Expo, April 15-17 at the Glacier Arena in Mount Pearl. For more information, visit DownhomeExpo.com.