Opening on March 19 in the Washington Convention Center, the Washington Home and Garden Show is produced by TJS Events in Alexandria. Those letters stand for Thomas J. Stafford, who calls himself a lifelong Alexandria person and attended public school here.
He has been running the exhibition since 1975 and now describes it as the biggest home show on the East Coast, with more than 500 exhibits this year. Heres what he had to say about this annual event:
Q: What exactly is involved in producing an event like the Washington Home Show?
A: You could say we are building a city that will stand for 4-5 days! Between 40,000 and 50,000 people are coming, and they need food, water and coat checks, among other things. For one thing, we rent over a mile of carpet that must be cleaned every day, and we also need a trained nurse and security guards.
It is a year-round effort for our seven staff members, including choosing the exhibitors and renting spaces to them.
We expect to have about 600 exhibitors this year. During the shows four days, they will have 4,000 workers setting up the displays.
Q: These exhibits will include living gardens. What is involved in creating them?
A: We bring in 10 tractor-trailer loads of mulch, and the exhibitors provide everything elsesod, stones, flowers, trees, water features, furniture and everything else you can think of. Those plants must be forced into bloom, because the show takes place in late March and they are not due until April. Once you see them, you will think you are outside.
The vignette displays are new this year. These are bringing in other exhibitors to create garden-party scenes. L.L. Bean is showing a camping trip, including kayaksand we even have the Ringling Brothers Circus, with a setting including clowns.
Q: How did you get involved with the Washington Home Show?
A: I started my career as a homebuilder in the early 1970s. We had gone into a building recession and the trend was to doing it yourself. I had wanted to do a do-it-yourself show and I have been doing it ever since.
Q: We certainly seem to be facing a recession again. How will that affect your industry?
A: We also produce the Washington Boat Show but have postponed it this year. We feel this is not a time when people want to buy boats, but we think that might change by the summer.
But home and garden shows tend to do very well during slow economic periods. People dont mind investing in their homes, while they might not put money into a luxury car or vacation. In addition to the displays, we have seminars on everything from lawn care to green home improvements. The contractors can be hired to do the work, but they will also provide tips on how to do-it-yourself.
Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday, March 19 and 20; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Admission for adults is $9 Thursday and Friday, $12 Saturday and Sunday and free for children under age 12 accompanied by an adult. Visitors may take the Metro to the Mount Vernon Square/Convention Center station via the Yellow or Green Line, which stops inside the building, at 801 Mount Vernon Avenue NW. For more information call 703-823-7960.