The Ottumwa Area Chamber of Commerce took a bit of a risk when it brought back the Home and Garden Show. Numbers like what the last few shows had prior to the hiatus in 2018 would have been difficult to recover from.
That gamble seems to have paid off. Numbers seemed solid on both days. Frank Fritz’s visit on Sunday clearly boosted attendance. While Joey Chestnut doesn’t have the same exposure on television, but he brought in a solid number of fans as well.
Were the appearances by Fritz and Chestnut a gimmick? Of course. While Fritz could probably give some interesting advice on how to find unique decorations and Chestnut might have some suggestions for the kitchen, neither was in Ottumwa to offer advice on how to improve your home.
Both were in Ottumwa to give area residents a chance to briefly rub shoulders with a celebrity, maybe pick up an autograph. They were there to draw attention, and both served that purpose well.
Gimmicks aren’t always a bad thing. Chamber Director Shea Greiner had it right when she said Sunday that the whole purpose of having the celebrities attend was to get people through the door. “We had to get creative,” she said.
So they took a shot at getting people whose backgrounds don’t exactly match up with what people think of for a home and garden show. It paid off.
But gimmicks only work if there’s substance to back them up. The show delivered on that point, too. There was a good range of vendors and the idea of having the YMCA do child care during the show seemed to work well.
There was some luck involved as well. Had that blizzard that slammed into western and northern Iowa moved just a few score miles east, the show could have been shut down through no fault of its own.
On the balance, this was a good return for the home show. It’s a good start. The challenge now is to build on it and find new ways to move ahead in the coming years.
That’s not as simple as it sounds. Home and garden shows, especially shows the size of Ottumwa’s show, have had a rough time of it for the past several years. More than one has shut down. Keeping Ottumwa’s show afloat will require good planning, some creative solutions and, yes, some more luck.
The momentum generated by this year’s success should make those goals easier to obtain in the coming years. It was the kind of success the show needed in order to have hope of a future.
Those involved deserve to enjoy a break now. They put in a lot of work over the past several months, and the success was well earned. But, before memories fade, we hope they’ll also do an honest review of what might be tweaked to improve future shows.
It’s good to have the home show back. It’s a welcome return, and we look forward to seeing what next year will bring.