Cooking demos and a woodworking expo add entertainment value to the annual show to attract people who may have no plans for home improvements.
Taste crab cakes prepared with instructions by award-winning chef Joseph Armstrong of Captain Fishbones in Quincy. Watch the skill of Canton furniture maker Thomas MacDonald, the star of a woodworking show in development with WGBH-TV.
These demonstrations – part of a Chef Fest and Woodworking Expo – are two reasons to go to the New England Home Show. So too are the craft pavilion and the magic performances. In its 60 years, this is the first time the show has added so many elements to attract people who may have no plans for home improvements.
“It’s value added,” said Rich Castiglione, director of the show, which runs today through Sunday at Seaport World Trade Center. “In this economy, people are digging down deeper, so we have things to amuse adults and kids. They don’t just get to see the home stuff.”
Of course, the core of the show is the 350 exhibitors who showcase products for projects ranging from modest to ambitious. Many goods and services are for improvements that increase or maintain a home’s value and reduce energy costs – such as upgraded or new kitchens and baths, energy-efficient windows, appliances and heating equipment, and high-end insulation.
The trend away from luxury and toward necessity can be seen in the decrease in the number of hot tub exhibitors and increase in the number of window companies at the show.
“People know that their home is their biggest investment, and they need to protect that,” Castiglione said.
Compared to recent years, companies have hopes that consumers are looking to buy, if not now then in the next few years.
“For the first time in two years, we’ve completely sold out our exhibit space,” said Castiglione, who expects 20,000 to 25,000 people to attend. “I don’t think the economy has turned around, but it’s starting to come back.”
If you’re essentially just browsing, you still can bring home something to enhance your house. The crafts and specialty foods pavilion has 90 booths, up from 30 last year.
During the Chef Fest, Armstrong, executive chef at Captain Fishbones of Quincy, will make crab cakes topped with tangy remoulade and a red pepper coulis, served with veggie slaw. Other chefs who will participate are Marc Vierbickas, executive chef at Siros in Quincy, Jose Duarte of Taranta in Boston, as well as chefs from Legal Test Kitchen, Aura, Suffolk Grille and Corey’s.
You can sample their fare, pick up a cup of free coffee and sit down to enjoy magicians and balloon artists from Urban Circus.
In the Woodworking Expo, MacDonald will be joined by professional furniture makers from across the country, as well as graduates and students of the North Bennet Street School in Boston. They will demonstrate various aspects of wood craft and offer tips.
“It’s a (furniture) show within a show,” said MacDonald, who makes reproductions of 18th century furniture and will showcase his new line of baseball-theme furniture made of solid ash and wooden baseball bats. He recently signed an agreement with WGBH to create a woodworking show.
“My challenge (with the baseball furniture) was ‘can I make something that is of superior quality, but still competitive price wise,’” said MacDonald, whose Past Time Collection features beds, dressers and bar stools.
That emphasis on value and quality also is the approach of Avalon Building Systems of Stoughton, which will exhibit its modular homes. The custom -designed homes are built in units at a factory and assembled onsite, a process that is less costly than traditional construction because it usually takes only four to six months and uses materials bought in large volumes directly from manufacturers.
Like many builders, owner Paul Oliveiri has seen an increase in customers who want to lessen the impact their homes have on the environment.
“Most want some type of green, but it can go from barely anything to the end of rainbow,” said Oliveiri of Sharon. “We can go anywhere up the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) ladder.”
Steps can include orienting the home’s windows to taking advantage of passive solar, using cabinets, countertops and flooring made from recycled or easily renewable materials, selecting paints and carpeting without emissions, and installing energy-efficient boilers, water heaters, windows and doors.
Oliveiri also has noticed that many baby boomers want products that require little or no maintenance, such as non-wood decks, fiber cement siding, bamboo flooring and cultured stone countertops.
Although the show does not feature vendors who define themselves as “green” companies, just about all companies have green offerings, although these may cost more, Castiglione said.
“Building people are all starting to think along the lines of green products, so if you want that you should ask them specifically,” Castiglione said.
Reach Jody Feinberg at email@example.com.
IF YOU GO . . .
WHAT: The New England Home Show
WHEN: Noon to 9 p.m. today and Friday, p.m. today and Friday, from tomorrow Feb. 25 and 26, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, from Feb. 27 and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Feb. 28 at
WHERE: Seaport World Trade Center, Seaport Boulevard, Boston
ADMISSION: Admission is free for those 17 and under, $12 for adults. Get $3 off if tickets are purchased online. For more information, call 508-823-0389 or go to www.newenglandhomeshows.com.