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| 5 min read | by Lonnie Huhman, lhuhman@thesuntimesnews.com |

For three decades, the Home, Garden & Lifestyle Show has been a great way to kick off the spring, especially for those who are thinking about doing some work at their homes.

On March 21-22, the event will again offer visitors from Ann Arbor, Chelsea, Dexter, Grass Lake, Manchester, Milan, Saline, and Ypsilanti and beyond a chance to connect with professional expertise as they think about potential home projects.

Put on by the Builders and Remodelers Association of Greater Ann Arbor, the event is in its 30th year. Organizers say it’s become a widely known event well attended by homeowners who are serious and ready to begin a home improvement project.

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It draws around 4,000 visitors.

BRAG Ann Arbor spokesman Pete Nowakowski said when it started way back in 1990, “we started this event in order for local building industry professionals to have a way to be available to meet people interested in building a home or improving their homes.”

“Word of mouth has always been the main way many builders get clients, but we thought giving people a neutral place to meet would create opportunities to find folks they can trust to work on their homes, by communicating with them directly to see if they would be a good fit for the job,” Nowakowski said.

He said so much goes into the planning, design, and selections for a remodeling job, “it can be overwhelming.”

“We wanted to have many material choices in front of people in one place,” he said. “We also wanted to give them a variety of services so they could learn about different approaches and make more informed decisions about their improvements.”

Another big reason, he said is that they, “wanted folks to be able to explore specific interests, discover new technologies and learn about best practices if they do their own improvements.”

The Home, Garden & Lifestyle Show has over 120 different businesses exhibiting their products and services, mostly related to home improvement, Nowakowski said.

At the show are flooring stores, roofing and windows, lighting, furniture, landscaping and nurseries, the latest technology like appliances and electronics, and so on; to go along with talented local designers and architects that can look over photos visitors may bring in or offer advice on any ideas you have for re-shaping your living space, or building something new.

Nowakowski said the trades and technicians at the show can help set up appointments or answer questions about plumbing, painting, home maintenance, organization, etc.  

Visitors will also find some vendors selling crafts, displaying bigger things like vehicles, offering financial services, or representing local organizations that have programs to educate homeowners on various topics. 

The event was first held in the U of M sports coliseum for a few years until moving to the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds because it needed to expand.

Nowakowski said the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds have been flexible to allow people to have the better part of the week to set up more elaborate displays like water features, brick patios with fire pits, gazebos, etc.

There have been some changes over the years.

The Farm Council Grounds has added new technology such as Wi-Fi and an overhead sound system throughout the seven buildings.

“Now that we are offering hourly live presentations, we are able to have them announced for all the visitors to make their way to the presentation area in Building E, without having to watch the clock too closely,” Nowakowski said.

There were some challenges over the years as well, such as the tornado that touched down in Dexter in 2012.

The event used to have an exhibitor that would bring farm animals, but that has since changed.

The event used to also be open on Fridays, but Nowakowski said they’ve moved it to Saturday and Sunday only to ease the schedule of the exhibitors, many of whom have to set up and take down multiple shows per year.

This year Nowakowski said they have some new food trucks like Smokehouse 52 and Ray’s Red Hots, as well as returning favorites BearClaw Coffee and the Girl Scouts making food in Building A. 

One other big change we can’t miss to mention is a big reason for the event.

“And of course – the trends!” Nowakowski said. “Homes look different now than in 1990. If they don’t, then people probably should come to the show to look into making some updates.”

A look back at the 1990 show.

This year there are also a few new exhibitors and a couple cool new things will be found in Building F, where they typically have the most elaborate outdoor displays and food trucks.

“This year a custom built “She-Shed” to benefit the ChadTough Foundation will be on display,” Nowakowski said.

He said it is sponsored by MANS Lumber & Millwork, and was built with the intention of auctioning it off at the ChadTough Champions Gala in May with proceeds being donated to ChadTough. (www.ChadTough.org)

Another cool thing will be the Ann Arbor Schools Student-Built Doghouse, which will be under construction in Building F. Visitors can meet some of the students who are now enrolled in the Ann Arbor Student Building Industry Program, which Nowakowski said is considered one of the best programs of its kind in the country.

“They have built a new home every year for the past 50 years, and we are talking about very nice homes,” he said. “The schools are always looking for more young people interested in this experience, which offers highly-desired skills many employers are looking for, as well as a memorable experience learning from real contractors and excellent coaches/instructors!”

Details can be found at www.AAStudentBuilding.org.

With all of that and more, Nowakowski said the event is really a community one with a lot of cool things for different people.

He said you’ll find a lot of local companies that are world-class at what they do, who contribute back to the community and are investing time exhibiting at the show, so local homeowners have trustworthy professionals for their next project.

“It’s inspiring to come out to see the creativity of the displays, and see you neighbors getting ideas of what to add to their homes,” Nowakowski said. “We make it a fun event with live presentations, food trucks and concessions by the Girl Scouts, prize drawings, and interactive displays. You’ll discover lots of new things and have a head start on many of your projects after coming to the Home Show.”

More information, including an event program categorizing the vendors and exhibitors, can be found at BRAGHomeShow.com.

The event is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, March 21 and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday March 22. Admission is $5, cash only and ages 12 and under is free. Enter at building G.

It’s located at 5055 Ann Arbor Saline Road in Ann Arbor.

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