Fall Home + Patio show canceled due to public health concerns
| For the Times-Union
This weekend’s Fall Home + Patio Show canceled due to public health concerns
For more than half a century, the Home + Patio Show has welcomed Jacksonville residents interested in home and garden products and services to a convention hall filled with product and service exhibitors. The show, which began as the Jacksonville Home and Garden Show at the Jacksonville Coliseum in 1968, hosted its spring event in March at the Prime Osborn Convention Center, but the fall show (originally scheduled for Sept. 25-27) has been canceled due to concerns over COVID-19, like many such events.
Tom Baugh, CEO of Marketplace Events, the show’s producer, said the cancellation, while disappointing for exhibitors and attendees, represents an attempt to balance health and liability issues with the show’s value to local businesses.
“This is not the first time we’ve had to cancel shows,” Baugh said. “We’ve canceled because of weather, storms [or] fires but this is the first time the industry has been affected universally at least since 1980, when I started doing this.”
Baugh said the consumer show industry is in a “medically induced coma, a state of suspended animation.”
“We must balance health and liability issues with value to local businesses,” he said. “The Prime Osborn is trying to do it right — balance the needs of the local economy, the show producers and the public.”
Bushor’s Tree Surgeons was at that first show in 1968 and has been an exhibitor at every show since then.
“The show has changed a lot,” Gene Bushor, founder and certified arborist, said. “Its name has changed, the location has changed, but it has always been a good way for family-owned businesses like ours to keep our name out there.”
Bushor said the shows give each exhibitor a platform to explain their specialty.
“We educate the public about what a tree surgeon is and does — the level of knowledge, technology and education required for licensure,” Bushor said. “A lot of people offer to trim trees who aren’t qualified to. The shows give us our chance to explain why it’s not a good idea to let them.”
Bushor is hopeful the shows will resume next year. He has a record to maintain.
Mr. Handyman, a home-improvement, home-maintenance/repair service, has been exhibiting at both the spring and fall shows for the past seven years. While business owner Michael McCalley understands the necessity of the cancellation, he is disappointed.
“The Home + Patio shows give us a chance to differentiate ourselves in the market,” McCalley said. “So many consumers have had poor experiences with help they’ve hired for their home, we want to put a face behind our company name and explain to folks how we’re different than all the rest.”
The shows also allow McCalley to meet other professionals who provide services his company does not offer, expanding his ability to help his customers find reputable professionals to meet their needs.
In addition to service and product suppliers, exhibitors typically include agencies and nonprofits that take advantage of the crowds, about 30,000 or more per event, to educate and raise awareness about their areas of concern. For example, in the Spring Home + Patio Show, local nonprofit The Arc Jacksonville was on hand to raise awareness about the needs of individuals with intellectual and developmental differences and The Arc’s programs and facilities that help them achieve their full potential and participation in community life.
JEA was among the exhibitors as a way of reaching customers to answer questions and provide information about programs and services to help save money and energy.
Jacksonville’s Animal Care and Protective Services division brought back its popular Pet-a-Palooza, where they offered free pet adoptions and free entry to the show with a donation item.
Baugh recognizes the value of the Home + Patio to the community as well as to the economy, and he is cautiously optimistic about 2021.
“We have not canceled any events in the first quarter of next year,” he said. “We operate in 38 markets at 30 venues. None of them have the same protocols for this situation. There is no industry precedent on how to handle spacing, traffic control, masks, limiting size, which makes our planning problematic.
“We have 54 events planned between January and April. My best prediction is we will do fewer than 54 and more than one.”
Baugh said their surveys indicate between 60 and 70 percent of exhibitors would exhibit regardless of restrictions, and the numbers are about the same for attendees.
“The Home + Patio Show has been successful in this market for 52 years, two shows a year,” he said. “The show belongs to the community. Marketplace Events is the steward of the show, but its content is determined by the ebb and flow of the community.
“With business exhibitors, pet adoptions, energy conservation — all the things homeowners are interested in, the show is a mini town square. And the fun part is bringing people together.”
Exhibition industry and COVID-19
The Center for Exhibition Industry Research estimates 9,400 exhibitions are held in the United States each year, and the industry’s total impact on the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) was $101 billion in 2019, up from $97 billion in 2018.
When restrictions due to COVID-19 were implemented in March, 50 percent to 80 percent of the scheduled events (March 1 through May 15) were canceled, with a direct loss to the industry of $2.3 billion to $3.6 billion. The loss to the economy also considers spending by exhibitors and attendees and was estimated to be $14 billion to $22 billion.
In its second-quarter report, the CEIR found that about 88 percent of events originally scheduled for that time period were canceled. The others were postponed or rescheduled.
Without a universally managed response, exhibitors are unable to establish safe protocols for producing exhibitions. The number of people in the building (where gatherings are allowed), social distancing and personal hygiene protocols differ from state to state, county to county and city to city. In addition, planners must consider travel bans, building ventilation systems and different requirements in each location.
The report contained signs of a gradual return of exhibitions with events scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2020 and into 2021 in some markets, such as Dallas, Atlanta and Indianapolis.
- Annual exhibitions in U.S.: Estimated 9,400
- Industry impact on gross domestic product: $101 billion in 2019 (a $4 billion increase over 2018)
- COVID-19 restrictions in March 2020: 50 to 80 percent of scheduled exhibits canceled
- Loss due to cancellations: $2.3 billion to $3.6 billion to the industry; $14 billion to $22 billion to the economy
Sources: Northstar Meetings Group, https://bit.ly/3iSswkx; Center for Exhibition Industry Research, https://bit.ly/3i19Uxz