By KAITLYN NAPLES
The 29th annual Bristol Home & Business Expo was another success last weekend, despite the warm temperatures and sunshine that could have distracted residents suffering from this winter’s cabin fever.
Linda DiMatteo, executive assistant to the president, and vice president of events and administrator of the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce said she thinks the event brought out more people than it did last year, and said there were about 110 vendors present, including businesses and non-profit organizations.
“I always think it is a positive thing,” DiMatteo said, adding that many businesses already signed up to attend next year’s event.
One of the most notable events was when former University of Connecticut basketball star Rebecca Lobo stopped by the Covanta Energy booth to meet and greet guests and sign autographs and take photos with fans.
“I was thrilled to be invited to be here,” Lobo said, while a line of guests waited to meet her and get their University of Connecticut memorabilia signed. Lobo said she was excited to experience more of Bristol, since she is just used to getting off the highway and heading straight to ESPN. She said she enjoys meeting people wherever she goes, especially younger children and likes to see how she can positively influence young girls.
Covanta has been sponsoring the celebrity guest at the expo for several years and has brought in many athletes and other guests.
In addition to many local businesses that cover all industries, from home improvement, energy conservation, senior living centers, medical treatments and more, this was the second year for the craft fair held at the Home & Business Expo.
Joan Simpson, organizer of the craft fair, said she had about 20 vendors that participated in this year’s expo.
Pam Strom, owner of PammyTail of Meriden, said she attended the home show last year and enjoyed spreading the word about her business. She started out making hair accessories for ponytails and has grown her business to making “story telling bracelets.” Her bracelets can be custom made to whatever her clients are looking for, with charms that are birth stones, sports symbols and much more.
Another craft vendor was Gail Farrar, with her business Shellcrafts by Gail, of Bristol. She took up the hobby of making ornaments, frames and more with shells she has found all over the world. It started while she was working as a cancer nurse and eventually turned into a business, rather than just a hobby.
She said she attended the home show last year as well, and said “it is a great crowd, and is nice to come out and see your friends and neighbors.”
Farrar not only sells her crafts but also teaches classes at places like the library and assisted living facilities. She was making hair accessories while home show guests stopped by to see what else she had to offer. She sells many of her products in local gift shops, and enjoys sharing her creativity and love for shells with others, she said.
Also at the Bristol Home & Business Expo were several departments from Bristol Hospital, including representatives from its rehabilitation program.
Linda Panikowski, a certified hand therapist at Bristol Hospital, said she was talking with expo guests about different kinds of hand therapy and treatment for issues like carpal tunnel. Bristol Hospital was also providing flu shots, as it has done in past years.
There were many non-profit organizations at this year’s expo, like the Bristol Relay for Life. Patty Coley, co-chair of this year’s event, said it is the 11th year in Bristol and the event has a goal of raising $90,000. The event raised a little over $74,000 last year, even though the rain forced the event to move inside Bristol Eastern High School.
“This year’s event is themed ‘Teaming Up Against Cancer’,” Coley said, adding that the Relay is still accepting teams and volunteers for the event that will kick off on Friday, June 6. So far the Bristol Relay for Life has 28 teams and 127 participants who have raised $3,368.91.
The annual home show is put on by the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce and Jenks Productions.