How does KONP organize and pull off the largest annual exhibition event on the Olympic Peninsula, despite having a staff of less than a dozen people? They prepare almost year-round and enlist the help of professional event planning specialists and local service club volunteers. “We love the Clallam County Home and Lifestyle Show and this year's event will be every bit as special as people have come to expect,” said KONP Sales Manager Stan Comeau.
Organization for this year's 34th annual KONP Home and Lifestyle Show started last March -- immediately following last year's successful offering at Port Angeles High School. Comeau noted, “It's almost getting to be an ongoing process,” as staff teamed up to look at what went right in 2015 and eyed possible improvements.
Last summer, KONP sales and marketing specialists began contacting exhibitors, looking for those interested in returning for the 2016 event, then marketing for replacement vendors to sell out the show. “It sounds terrible to say this, but we actually don't want to have all of the same exhibitors back year after year because you would essentially end up with the same show,” Comeau observed. While many stalwart local businesses have returned to the same booth locations at the Home Show, Comeau says KONP attempts to "keep the show fresh" with new faces, including many startup business ventures each year, both from the local and Puget Sound areas.
The transformation of the Port Angeles High School gymnasiums from athletic facility to Clallam County Home & Lifestyle Show venue actually starts on the Thursday night prior to the event. “That's the manual labor part and we get lots of help from service organizations to lift, pull and carry,” Comeau said. The primary effort involves protecting the school's hardwood basketball courts. Enormous vinyl mats are carefully placed and attached to the maple surface with a special adhesive tape to protect the finish. Mats go into the east gym on Thursday night and the older Roughrider gym gets a vinyl surface on Friday morning. Once the floor work is completed, professionals from GES Exposition Services start building booths, hanging curtains and rolling out carpets, while local electricians connect a series of long cables to provide each exhibitor with power. GES provides exhibition and event services in every major convention market across North America. They produce many of the world’s most recognized trade shows including IMTS, CONEXPO/CON-AGG, Consumer Electronics Show, National Association of Broadcasters, MAGIC, World Shoe Associates, National Restaurant Association and E3. GES serves more than 3,000 exhibitions and events annually. “The fact that we have teamed up with a real professional outfit like GES is the reason why we can pull off this event with a reasonably small staff,” Comeau lauded.
Peninsula Service Club volunteers and KONP staff move tables and chairs from the school's cafeteria to the gymnasium to provide seating for the concession area. They also assist exhibitors in finding their booth space when they arrive at the high school. It's a total effort that Comeau calls “a huge job that doesn't get any smaller.” Workers toil late into the night Friday to have the venue ship-shape for the first visitors.
Once Saturday morning rolls around, the Clallam County Home and Lifestyle Door doors open for thousands of Peninsula residents – taking advantage of the free admission. KONP staff welcomes the event kickoff, “we can kind of relax because the Show sort of takes care of itself,” Comeau says. “The exhibitors, that's their time to shine -- it's all about them -- and we're just there as a caretaking role, to observe and be available.” GES is available to help during the show as Comeau admires, “They anticipate problems before they happen in many cases and they meet us more than halfway to solve it.”
The Clallam County Home & Lifestyle Show closes on Sunday afternoon at 4 and the cleanup work is just beginning. The scene outside the gymnasiums becomes almost chaotic, as most of the exhibitors begin dismantling their booths and loading up equipment for the trip home. It's a steady flow of vendors with dollies and carts streaming through the exit doors, heading for limited loading space in the parking lot. Comeau observes, “People are in a hurry, exhibitors are tired and they just want to get loaded up and go home.” “Some of the local vendors have learned that it is easier to just leave the school, go out to dinner and relax for awhile, then return later and be able to work a little more slowly,” Comeau said.
After exhibitors are clear of the venue, GES begins their task of removing curtains, booth framework and carpeting. KONP staff and Service Club volunteers team up to pull up the huge vinyl floor mats, plus returning the tables and chairs to the school's cafeteria. The west gymnasium must be cleared Sunday night in order to be ready for use by Physical Education students Monday morning. By Monday Noon, both Port Angeles High School Gyms will be back to normal, floors swept and mopped, ready for bouncing basketballs and squeaking athletic shoes.