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First trade show in Maine

Under the pandemic

By Nathan Tsukroff

AUBURN –Welcome to the Maine Home Show . . . the first trade in Maine since the COVID-19 pandemic began more than a year ago.

With just four weeks to bring the show together after the State of Maine gave permission for expanded indoor gatherings in March, Travis Dow booked space in the Norway Savings Bank arena to create a pandemic version of the home show that Mainers have enjoyed for so many years.

The Maine Home Show finally opened its doors the second weekend of April, with around 50 exhibitors.

The show took place on one of the two ice rinks at the arena. This rink had been shut down at the end of the hockey season, while the other rink hosted play throughout the weekend. Exhibitors were able to set up on the concrete base of the arena, rather than on a covering over the ice.

This was the ninth annual Maine Home Show, after being forced to skip last year due to the pandemic.

The show was hosted at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston the first eight years, shifting to the Norway Savings Bank Arena this spring after the Colisee told Dow it was extending hockey play and wouldn’t be able to host the show.

  Dow has already booked the Norway Savings Bank Arena for next year’s show on March 19 and 20, 2022, and said it provides room for him to expand the show as needed.

Travis Dow of Dow Media LLC in Lewiston, gives a thumbs up while chatting with Twin City Times Publisher Laurie Steele about the success of the Maine Home Show. Dow has produced the show since its inception 10 years ago, and said this year’s show – the first trade show in Maine since the pandemic began a year ago – was well received by both vendors and visitors. (Lillian Baker photo)

He worked with the staff at the Arena for this year to be sure pandemic guidelines were followed. “We developed a plan on how to lay the event out and structure it in such a way that it kept people safe,” he said.

“Once we did that” and he knew he could present the show, “then I started generating all the support from the exhibitors and planning all the advertising, and bringing on these new ways of bringing people in as far as electronic tickets and contactless payments,” Dow said.

In the past, visitors simply paid admission at the door. But this year, visitors printed out their online tickets and scanned the ticket QR code at the entrance for admission. Dow said another advantage to this new system was that visitors planned to attend, rather than making a last-minute decision on the day of the show.

With only a month to pull the show together for this year, Dow said the number of exhibitors was down from past years. Visitors have enjoyed around 75-80 exhibits in previous shows.

As far as exhibits, “We had a little bit of everything,” Dow said. Exhibits included furniture, yard services, household goods and knickknacks, building services, windows and doors, and generators.

About 50 exhibitors filled one of the ice rinks at the Norway Savings Bank Arena in Auburn for the Maine Home Show in early April, the first trade show in Maine since the pandemic began more than a year ago. (Tsukroff photo)

 With fewer exhibitors this year, the show featured wider aisles and larger booths than in past years. Dow said there is lots of room available to add exhibitors in future shows. For this year, he took advantage of the extra space to “to just make it open, and allow for as much social-distancing as possible.”

The advantage to an in-person show is that visitors can speak directly with a vendor, Dow said. “A key component to it is actually talking to somebody that knows what they’re doing” with the services offered.

For the vendors, the show is important to generating leads for their businesses, Dow said, so the exhibitors “were really thankful” to be at the show.

This first trade show of the pandemic in Maine  “broke the ice for the events industry to show people that we can do it, and that it can happen,” Dow said. He expects other trade shows to be presented in Maine, now that he was able to demonstrate they can take place safely.

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