By LISA CAPOBIANCO
Sunny skies and warmer than average temperatures brought a crowd of all ages at the 31st annual Bristol Home and Business Expo last weekend.
Sponsored by The Ultimate Companies, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services New England Properties, Modern Dentistry of New England, and Power Fuel Propane, the expo was held last Saturday and Sunday at Bristol Eastern High School.
For over 30 years now, the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce has given the community a chance to escape cabin fever during the event, which featured something for everyone.
Besides the growing number of vendors each year, the expo also has grown in its attendance rate. Last year, the expo brought a turnout of at least 2,000 people. This year was no different, as the expo expected a turnout of between 2,000 and 2,500 people.
Jim Albert, president and CEO of the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce, called this year’s expo “another successful year.” On Saturday, Albert said it was great to see a lot of families and children stop by, as the weather turned out to be better than last year.
“We reserved the weather for the weekend,” said Albert, adding that the event brought a good set of vendors.
From hundreds of vendors and a large craft fair to a children’s alley activity section to free appraisals and a silent auction, the expo kept visitors entertained throughout the day. As spring is just around the corner, many expo-goers stopped by home improvement vendors to learn more about different products they could use for house repairs and other projects ranging from energy inspections to gutter protection to window and door replacements.
Millstream Construction, a local full service roofing contractor in northwestern Connecticut and Southern Massachusetts, provided information on roof repairs, which Jessica Gonsalves said sparked a lot of questions among visitors.
Millstream has been coming to the expo for the past couple of years, which Gonsalves said helps market the business.
“We did great last year,” said Gonsalves, adding that the location of the Bristol expo offers a more “personable’ atmosphere.
One major highlight of the expo was the free appraisals and silent auction presented by Tim’s Auctions. The public was invited to bring any antique items to be appraised in the high school’s auditorium, including jewelry, gold, silver, coins, silver and more. The silent auction featured several autographed guitars, including one by Aretha Franklin.
For Rick Dubie, the auction gave him an opportunity to find out the value of a tin toy airplane that belonged to his father in the mid-1950s. Dubie said he had a hard time finding more information about the antique toy online, and thought bringing it to the expo was a good idea.
After meeting with Tim’s Auctions, Dubie learned his airplane was worth between $750 and $1,000.
“It’s a curiosity,” said Dubie. “Apparently, there are not many of these around.”
Another popular part of the expo was the newly expanded children’s area, which featured arts and crafts with local museums, a Home Depot Kids Workshop, mascot and character appearances, and SAMI the Robot, who rolled around the event to greet and interact with children. Children and their families also flocked to the Bristol Chamber booth where they posed with a life-size figure of Yoda from Star Wars.
At the Home Depot booth, youngsters got a chance to let their inner carpenter out through wood working projects. They also designed and colored their own carousel figures at the Carousel Kids Corner. At the Imagine Nation Museum’s booth, children delved into the world of science and engineering by creating and launching pinwheels and parachutes in a vertical wind tunnel to see how they fly.
Doreen Stickney, development and marketing director of Imagine Nation, A Museum Early Learning Center, said the activity was well-received by children, adding how it gives youngsters a taste of experience they will have at the museum.
“We’re all about STEAM [science, technology, engineering, art and manufacturing) activities, and letting children use their own imagination,” said Stickney. “We’re excited to be participating.”
PHOTOS by TAMMI NAUDUS, MIKE CHAIKEN