BRHBA’S Home and Garden Festival

BRHBA’S Home and Garden Festival

The Blue Ridge Home Builders Association’s (BRHBA) 41st Home & Garden Festival, April 4-6, makes the Main Street Arena on the Downtown Mall the place to dream and plan and plot, to chat with local home and garden professionals, pick up a few ideas, and figure out how to make them happen.

With 80 booths featuring everything from flooring to roofing options, plus food and drink tastings, door prizes and children’s activities, the festival is a gaze and graze event for homeowners, handymen, gardeners and fix-it-up chappies – for anyone eager to channel springtime energy into a renovated kitchen or retiled bathroom.

Landscapers, floor and window specialists, interior and exterior designers and other experts will be on hand for this annual event, the largest and only trade show of its kind in Central Virginia. Blue Ridge Homebuilder’s Association Executive Vice-President Kristin O’Connell Sorokti estimates that about a 1,000 people attended last year’s show.

“We want to double that this year,” Sorokti says, “because we have a brand new venue, the Main Street Arena. We are really excited about this opportunity to partner with the Downtown Business Association and the Arena. We believe that the Festival will draw a big crowd because it’s coinciding with the City Market. This is a great opportunity to reach people who are out in April, when the community is ready to start thinking about home improvement.”

BRHBA was founded in 1964 to “advocate for the homebuilding industry in this area,” Sorokti says. “We are a membership association that provides educational opportunities for our members, networking opportunities, and other opportunities to help them grow their businesses.”

“A lot of the vendors may have new technology and new innovations that we haven’t seen yet,” she continued, “especially in the areas of green building and sustainability. A lot of our seminars will be catered toward green building and energy efficiency. They will offer the community a lot of new idea and get them in touch with local businesses.”

A festival going on its 41st year is a festival the community loves and supports. Corbin Snow, co-owner of Snow’s Garden Center on Avon Street Extended, remembers attending as a child, back when it was held at the Cage, a University of Virginia facility next to U-Hall on Emmett Street. The festival highlight for five-year old Corbin? Playing in the hot tub one vendor had on display.

Snow’s has been a festival participant “since the inception of the show” says co-owner Scott Price. He remembers the Cage era too. “Back in those days, we’d have to shovel snow just to get in the front doors,” he says. “That was a challenging situation to have a home and garden show in. The Cage was basically a big warehouse with no heat. Now it’s a really wonderful event in a great location, on the Downtown Mall.”

Whether what’s needed is a handsome new roof, patio, garden or kitchen, or just a plain vanilla repair job, Central Virginia residents have many fine handymen, craftsmen, and artisans to choose from. “I’ve been going for the last 20 years off and on,” says Kevin Blair of The Blair Company, a local remodeling and maintenance company. “I like to go and see the latest and greatest building techniques and materials and methods. It’s kind of interesting to see what’s on the cutting edge, and also I get creative ideas from what other vendors have done with mockups and displays and things.”

For Blair and other building and landscape pros, the festival is a place to meet old friends, colleagues, and clients. “I run into a lot of fellow business owners and people I’ve known and dealt with over the years,” he says, “so it’s kind of a social event, too.”
Jerry Bledsoe is a third generation owner of Robert Bledsoe Building Company, his grandfather founded it in 1944. “We decided this is a good opportunity to give the individual homeowner our products and services.

This will be the 14th festival in a row for Darren Giacalone, owner of Charlottesville’s Roof Top Services. “Being a local business, I think it’s important to be there to meet existing and future customers,” Giacalone says. “We’ll show probably ten different types of roofs that are out there for the homeowner to consider.”

Virginia natives Trevor Payton and Chad Hommel use their horticultural skills and artistic vision in landscaping, ornamental gardening, stonework, and turf management. The two men founded Charlottesville’s Zenscapes, they say, to “take landscaping to the next level.”

That was just a couple of years ago. “Since we’re a young company, the festival is a very good opportunity to put our face in front of the community,” Hommel says. “We plan on having a simple ornamental garden on display and some literature outlining what we do.”

Archeologists in Israel found a hearth full of ash and charred bone in a cave in Israel this January, evidence that humans may have built cooking fires as early as 300,000 years ago. The hearth and grill shop Wooden Sun, which opened in 2010 in the IX Building on 2nd Street SE in Charlottesville, adapts this innovative Stone Age survival technique for a rather more sophisticated, 21st century clientele.

“My partner’s been in this business for 30+ years; we formed a partnership in 2009,” says company co-owner Jonathan Schnyer. “We sell fireplaces and stoves – wood, gas, electric and pellet, and the parts and accessories you need to keep safe and cozy. In the winter, we specialize in fireplace projects. In the summertime, we’ve been getting into outdoor kitchens and high end grill business.” Wooden Sun installs and maintains them all.

Batteries Plus on Emmett Street at Albemarle Square specializes in light bulbs as well as batteries, and with incandescent bulbs disappearing from store shelves and LED bulbs taking their place, lighting is a topic of conversation these days. Batteries Plus salesman Alfred Wanderlingh will lead a seminar on green energy lighting solutions for the home. With incandescent bulbs harder and harder to find, people are interested in saving money on their electric bills, Wanderlingh says, but “they want information.” Wanderlingh’s talk is intended “to make it easy for people to make the switch” to LED lighting, even if they’re nervous about how it might change the look of their home.

“I want to discuss how putting in energy-efficient lighting applications right off the bat can benefit the homeowner,” Wanderlingh says. “It allows them to try out the bulbs before they put them all throughout their house. A lightbulb that’s on more than ten hours a day is a good place to start with an energy efficient lightbulb if you’re not sure about switching.”

The University of Virginia Credit Union will offer two workshops, one on heat pumps, and another on using one’s home as equity. The second session will address “mortgage, refinance, home equity and Power Saver loans,” the Credit Union’s Rebecca Cardwell says, delving into various ways to use home equity to finance improvements that increase the home’s value.

While grown-ups search and study, kids will be able to play. “We’re trying to create more of a family-friendly atmosphere,” Sorokti says. “We’re going to have an entire kids zone in the annex of the Main Street Arena, with a Bounce House inside, popcorn, face-painting, and balloon animals. Lowe’s has been kind enough to donate a bunch of kits for kids’ activities.”

For the first time, the festival will sell food and feature beer and wine tastings. Carpe Donut will sell coffee, along with their signature organic donuts and other goodies. Charlottesville’s Three Notch’d Brewery and Standardsville’s Kilaurwen Winery will offer tastings.

The Festival will be open to the public on Friday from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:oo p.m. Tickets are $5. Children 12 and under are free. Downtown garages will validate parking for two hours. The festival will donate forty percent of its proceeds to the American Cancer Society.

Ken Wilson