GREAT FALLS — James Enos has a pretty sweet location at the 2021 Great Falls Home & Garden Show. But as he sits near the front of Four Seasons Arena, chatting with current, potential, and future clients about Dusty’s Sprinklers, he and most people that walk by are thinking pretty much the same thing: it’s just good to be back. “We’ve heard a lot of buzz from our clients more than anybody,” Enos said. “They’re super excited to come and see us.”
For many businesses, events like the Home & Garden Show represent a chance to network with clients and do a month’s worth of advertising all from behind their booth. Without that in 2020, an already tough year for many small businesses didn’t get any easier. “It’s the best way I do advertising,” said Nathan Curtis, the owner of Curtis Construction. “It was pretty exciting (to see the event come back), especially without the restrictions.
Masks are optional, and all capacity limits and curfews were waived by the Cascade City-County Health Department, marking the first time in over a year that an event of this magnitude took place without any required health and safety protocols. Masks were still present here and there, but what business representatives like Enos were really excited about was the nixed capacity limits.
There is only one entrance and one exit: "That was just something the health department set up. It helps with crowd control,” explained Katie Hanning, Great Falls Home Builders Association executive officer.
Hanning said the show and some of the vendors are making extra efforts to try to keep people safe. "A lot of the vendors have expanded their booths so you feel comfortable going in. We've added six more hours to the show, so everyone can come. If you get here and it's a little busy and you want to come back later, we will accommodate that,” Hanning explained.
Hanning also encouraged people to be mindful of the fact that the county's COVID restrictions have been lifted. “If you want to wear a mask, wear a mask. If you don't want to wear a mask, don't, but let's respect each other,” said Hanning.
“We thought it was great,” he said about the lifted restrictions. “We were concerned about the limited capacity, but now it’s open and we’re excited to see how many people show up.”
The Home Builders Association of Great Falls had to submit their plans for the event to the Cascade City-County Health Department back in January. At the time, Executive Officer Katie Hanning said that she was just happy to have a chance at bringing the event back this year after it was canceled for the first time in 40 years.
The event features extended hours and more than 100 vendors. For some, it not only represents the return of a community staple, but perhaps also another step toward a return to normal life. Curtis explained the extra steps his business has taken during the pandemic to ensure that the work can go on while his employees and clients stay safe and healthy.
“Just making sure that we’re safe around folks,” he explained, when asked about some of the biggest changes he’s had to make over the past year. “When they call us and we go do our home visits, just making sure that we’re clean and safe going in.”
Cascade City-County Health Director Trisha Gardner says the health department is prepared to do contact tracing after the show if necessary: "We still have a number of temporary staff available to do contact tracing."
As for whether the outcome of the show could impact how the CCHD handles other events in the county? Gardner said, "Moving forward, in absolutes, if we really do see a whole bunch of cases come out of something like this, yeah, we'll be re-evaluating what that looks like moving forward. I do have to say though the Home and Garden Show, they've been phenomenal. they have thought of many different precautions."
Hanning said she is confident people will make good choices and the show would be just fine.
DATES AND TIMES
Friday, March 26: Noon to 8 pm
Saturday, March 27: 10 am to 8 pm
Sunday, March 28: 10 am to 4 pm
ADMISSION TO THE SHOW
Admission is $5.00 and children under 18 are free when accompanied by an adult.