Area Home and Garden Expo meets home improvement needs

Offering a myriad of home-improvement services, the two-day Mahomet Area Home and Garden Expo weekend event received praise in its first year from attendees and local vendors at the Mahomet-Seymour High School's field house.

"For its first year, it's been successful, and I think this is a very good first step," said Mike Dillavou, a Busey Bank vice president mortgage originator. "It's another reason why Mahomet is special. We're able to put something like this together."

The Mahomet Area Chamber of Commerce's Saturday and Sunday expo, sponsored by Matt Difanis Team RE/MAX Realty Associates, was a learning experience, both for area shoppers and businesses alike.

"I didn't realize there were this many businesses in the community," Kelly Ford of Lucky Moon Pies and More said.

Others, such as attendee Marie Senn, who lives close to the high school, said she was unaware of the event until recently. She and husband, Phil, decided to bring family from out of town to the event as a nice way to get out of the house.

"It's somewhere to be," she said. "I had company in from out of town, and I am always looking around the house for what to do next."

Senn and her family walked the field house in search of roofers. Like Senn, many other visitors, such as Kevin Bowie, attended the event for the sole purpose of meeting a household need.

"My wife sent me out with the kids to find a water softener, and we're doing our best to shop local," Bowie said. "We're also here to look for an electrician to help us finish the basement."

Impressed by the number of booths, Bowie was able to meet his wife's water softener request.

"We have someone coming by Tuesday morning from Culligan," he said.

Vendors, such as RE/MAX Realty Associates, agreed that attendees seemed to visit in search of meeting a goal.

"Most folks stopping by are current homeowners, and maybe they're wanting to do some type of moving," RE/MAX agent Max McComb said.

Finding the positives, Mahomet Ace Hardware and Lucky Moon Pies and More agreed the event was an overall terrific way to have a face in the community.

"It's a nice way to get our name out there and let them know we're more than just sweets," Ford said.

"I enjoyed meeting people," Jim Hood, co-owner of Mahomet Ace Hardware, said. "We had a couple stop by and they didn't know there was an Ace Hardware in Mahomet."

The Hillbilly Silly Science Spectacular provided an hour-long family friendly show during both days of the event.

"That was awesome!" a child exclaimed at the conclusion of Saturday's show.

Cletus Beaker's performance yielded laughs and "wows" from the crowd as he created a toilet-paper tornado and taught children words such as "hypothesis" before showstoppers, such as a child standing on a board that laid across rows of balloons without popping them.

Event admission was $5, and vendor booth sizes were either 10 feet by 10 feet or 10 feet by 20 feet. Vendor booth costs varied from $350 to $750 for a booth, depending on the size of the booth and if the businesses held a membership with the chamber.

Attendee suggestions included more child-focused activities for area families.

"Finding a way at the booths to have something for the kids to get them involved would be a great idea," Senn said.

Others, such as Clyde Snyder, suggested seasonal offerings, such as gardening and yard preparation areas for exploration.

"I was looking for someone with flowers and gardening, but the overall variety was great because you had so many options — everything from roofing to hardware."

Snyder enjoyed being able to see many local retailers in one centralized location.

"We buy as much local in Mahomet as possible," he said. "The Girl Scouts' booth is where I really spent some money," he joked.

With 51 vendors in attendance, chamber director Walter Pierce considered the event to be a success with room for improvements.

"Like everyone else, I would have loved to see more of the community come out, but everyone I've spoken to said it takes three years to build it," Pierce said. "We'll build it. It'll take a while. Vendor response was awesome, to say the least. Everyone was very pleased with the quality."

Pierce said he plans to meet with the remaining chamber members sometime this week to discuss and create a plan of action for how best to improve next year's event. He received a verbal commitment from 50 of the vendors to return to the 2019 Area Home and Garden Expo.

Upcoming events for the chamber include creating a farmers' market on Main Street downtown, which will run every Friday, rain or shine, from 4 to 7 p.m. from Memorial Day weekend through Aug. 17.

"We've gotten 20 vendor requests, which is good for this early in the year," Pierce said.

Those interested in becoming a vendor for the farmers' market, may call 217-840-2700 or email walter@mahometchamberofcommerce.com.

The chamber is also assisting with JT Walker's Mahomet Craft Beer Festival from 2 to 6 p.m. on April 21 on Main Street. With over 25 vendors, the event will feature craft beer, ciders, soda and wine. The festival also features a central Illinois barbecue cook-off at 4:30 p.m.

For more information, visit mahometchamberofcommerce.com, hover the "Events" tab and click "Craft Beer Festival."

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