The Spring Dispatch Home & Garden Show is happening live and in person, but like everything else in this pandemic world, it won’t be business as usual.
The 65th annual event, which starts Saturday at the Ohio Expo Center, has been reconfigured to fit a COVID climate.
The eight-day event will be smaller, held in one building instead of two, and will bypass the workshops and celebrities that have traditionally drawn crowds. In another effort to control traffic, all tickets will be sold in advance at dispatchshows.com at; no tickets will be sold to walk-up visitors. In addition, all guests must wear masks.
“Our top priority is everybody’s safety,” said Stephen Zonars, general manager of the show. “We’ve worked long and hard on a plan. … No matter what time of day you come, we will have a safe level of attendance at all hours.”
The show has served as a bookend to the pandemic. Last year’s show was one of the final major public events before COVID shutdowns, and this year’s will be one of the first held since many restrictions have eased up.
Despite the virus-related changes, the colorful centerpieces of the show — the gardens — will be in full bloom. Landscapers have installed six gardens, down from the usual 10, built around the theme of “Backyard Getaways.”
“The Home and Garden show defines the garden theme based upon current trends in our society. ‘Backyard Getaways’ seemed obvious, given the pandemic and how everyone is stuck at home,” Zonars said.
Steve Maravich, a landscape architect with Hedge Landscape Co., said after some initial concerns about holding the show, he is now confident it will be a safe way to turn the calendar from winter to spring.
“It’s a kickoff for not only the landscape industry, but also a kickoff for everyone else, knowing that spring is just about here,” said Maravich, who is chairing the landscapers’ group in this year’s show.
Hedge Landscape’s garden, like others, plays off the pandemic. Maravich designed Hedge’s display around the theme of movie night, inspired by his own experience during the summer.
“I put a movie screen in my front yard last summer, put circles on the ground for families and pods of people,” he said. “My whole neighborhood would end up coming over. … I actually got to know my neighbors.”
Another company, Landscape Design Solutions, dubbed its display the It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere garden. The installation includes the pandemic-driven feature of an outdoor home office, along with a spot for business meetings and, finally, a place to relax at the end of the day.
Other gardens seek to capitalize on the idea of being able to relax again outdoors after being cooped up for months.
“People are desperate for a taste of the outdoors,” said Genevieve Mills, chief operating officer at Oakland Nurseries, which has participated in every one of the 65 Dispatch Home & Garden Shows. “The whole year seems to have been a winter.”
To put visitors in a spring mood, Mills and her team peppered their Rustic Spring Getaway garden with colorful azaleas and hydrangeas.
Five Seasons Landscape Management also went for a more relaxing theme with its High Hammock garden anchored by a super-sized hammock perched over the garden. (Sorry, visitors, no lounging on the hammock.)
“Now more than ever, a lot of people can’t wait to get out and start enjoying the outdoor life,” said Omar Gonzales, who oversaw the garden installation for Five Seasons.
While gardens occupy center stage at the show, about 200 vendors and remodelers can also be found, showcasing everything from beekeeping to vinyl windows.
The show is designed to connect companies with homeowners, but many landscapers said they were well-positioned for the COVID shutdowns. They could continue working outside, and many homeowners took advantage of being home to catch up on home improvements.
“Customers were clamoring for improvements to their lawns, landscapes and outdoor living spaces because they were at home so much more,” said Lisa Schaumann Stryker, vice president of communications with the National Association of Landscape Professionals in Virginia.
“Barring an economic downturn, all indications are that homeowners are continuing to invest in their outdoor spaces this year.”
All the more reason to connect with professionals at the home and garden show, say landscape companies and exhibitors.
“People aren’t going on vacation, they’re spending money to enjoy themselves at home,” said Maravich, with Hedge Landscape. “The show is good for the homeowners; if you want to get a project started this year, you better talk to someone soon.”
At a glance
The Spring Dispatch Home & Garden Show presented by Ohio Mulch runs through next Sunday
Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays; noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday; closed Monday
Where: The Bricker building at the Ohio Expo Center
Cost: $10, or $5 after 5 p.m.; $5 for children; free to health-care workers, teachers, first-responders and members of the military Tuesday through Friday
Tickets: must be purchased in advance at dispatchshows.com
Parking: Enter at 561 E. 11th Ave. Cost: $5 per vehicle