By LISA CAPOBIANCO
Cold temperatures and snow may have arrived on Saturday, but that did not stop crowds of people from flocking to the 30th Annual Home & Business Expo.
For 30 years now, the Central Connecticut Chamber of Commerce has given local residents an opportunity to escape cabin fever with the expo, which took place on Saturday and Sunday. From crafts to entertainment to hundreds of exhibits for different home improvement and lifestyle needs, the expo has brought in a large turnout while maximizing exposure for local businesses.
Jim Albert, president of the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce, said the event saw a steady stream of people, with a turnout of at least 2,000 people. Sponsored by Covanta and Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties, the expo saw a crowd from late morning to early afternoon before the snow hit later on in the day. Although Sunday was a bit slower, said Albert, the warmer temperatures also brought a good turnout that day.
Even before the expo kicked off at 11 a.m. on Saturday, a line of people were ready to exchange their incandescent light bulbs for LED bulbs free of charge. This year, the expo featured a “light bulb swap” booth, which was facilitated by the Mayor’s Task Force on Energy Consumption and representatives from Energize Connecticut. The swap was funded by the city’s first “Bright Idea” grant.
In 2012, Bristol signed the Clean Energy Communities pledge to reduce municipal building energy consumption by 20 percent. By signing the pledge, every time Bristol residents or businesses participate in an Energize Connecticut energy-savings program, they help the city receive points towards a grant. Residents were able Despite threatening inclement weather, home show draws crowd to bring up to three incandescent light bulbs to receive three LEDs in exchange.
“Half of the people who came to the door wanted to know about the light bulbs,” said Albert.
Karen Hintz, a Board of Education representative on the Mayor’s Task Force on Energy Consumption, said on Saturday that at least 300 people stopped by the booth to swap their bulbs.
“People were really excited about using them,” said Hintz. “They just use a lot less energy.”
Besides the light bulb swap, the expo offered other ways for people to learn more about energy savings. Jennifer Marzullo, an independent associate for the energy company Viridian Energy, said at the expo that her booth received a lot of curiosity from consumers about solar power, which could give them a chance to reduce their monthly energy bill. Viridian partners with full-service provider SolarCity.
“People have a lot of great questions,” said Marzullo, adding how many consumers are unaware that the installation of solar panels is free. “Consumers are making more conscious efforts.”
Dating back to 100 years, the home show took a hiatus for a period of time before being resurrected in 1985, said Albert. Originally held at the old Bristol Armory, the event ultimately moved to Bristol Eastern High School where it took place over the weekend.
From door prizes, to pre-season discounts to products, the expo gave the public an opportunity a variety of things to take home while meeting with businesses from different industries, including home improvement, health care, energy conservation, and more.
The expo appealed to people of all ages, as it featured health screenings, children’s activities, and a craft fair.
Lifelong Bristol resident Joanne Dooey was one local crafter who brought her knitted work to the expo for the first time. From potholders to hats and headbands to scarves and purses, Dooey was glad to share her different patterns with the community.
“I’ve knitted for a number of years, making sweaters for my family,” said Dooey, who also has brought her work to other craft shows in surrounding communities. “Now I can share it with the public.”
Albert said for the first time in five to six years, the event sold out of vendor booths, which indicates a sign that there’s some improvement in the economy.
“We sold out this year,” said Albert, adding how the vendors also were pleased with the turnout. “Things are starting to improve a little bit.”
Also for the first time this year, the expo served as an opportunity for the chamber to roll-out a variety of merchandise to promote the city’s new “All Heart” logo. Mark Walerysiak, marketing and brand manager for the chamber, said the All-Heart booth was kept busy all day, as people wanted to buy t-shirts, hats and beanies that showcased the logo. The booth also gave away coasters that featured the logo on one side, and a sponsor business on the flip side, including Barley Vine, Double Tree, and Firefly Hollow Brewing Company.
Meanwhile, in the background, a slideshow presentation explained the meaning behind the logo’s red and blue colors as well as the logo’s shape and symbols. Walerysiak said he hopes sporting the logo will remind the community about Bristol’s rich heritage and history.
“We’re so passionate about everything no matter what it is,” said Walerysiak.
Although the expo has featured sports stars in the past, such as University of Connecticut basketball player Rebecca Lobo, it featured a live demonstration from this year to promote STEM Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) in the community.
Made up of students from Bristol and other surrounding towns., P.E.A.C.E. is currently in its fifth season and showcased last year’s robot, which is able to throw a two-foot round exercise ball. Formed as a 4-H robotics team in the Northwest corner of the state, P.E.A.C.E. aims to “promote engineering, leadership, and community involvement,” and practices 25 to 30 hours a week and meets at the A.G. Russell building in Bristol. During the expo, the community had the chance to learn more about the team’s presence in the community.
Johnny Chea, a sophomore at Bristol Central High School, who hopes to pursue engineering in the future, said he hopes his involvement on the team not only shows the community what P.E.A.C.E. has accomplished so far, but also inspires children to gain new skills through the world of robotics.
“They can do the same and more,” said Chea, who also manages the LEGO League team in his free time.
Comments? Email lcapobianco@BristolObserver.com.
PHOTOS by TAMMI NAUDUS, MIKE CHAIKEN