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Duquesne Light Home & Garden Show offers something new

| Thursday, March 1, 2012

Home shows can be comforting in their domestic familiarity.

But John DeSantis knows there is a need to offer something new to visitors who stop by year after year. The executive director of the Duquesne Light Home & Garden Show turned to a show of fashion, history and nobility to provide newness in the show that opens Friday.

Amid more than 1,500 displays of items such as garage-door openers, the latest in synthetic decks and furniture for every room, this 31st edition of the area's biggest home show also will offer "Diana, the People's Princess."

The display is a collection of five dresses of Diana, the Princess of Wales, who died in a car crash in 1997. It will include storyboards and videos of her life and times.

"You have to have something different for the people who are there year-in and year-out," DeSantis says. He expects visitors to spend at least a half-hour to 45 minutes looking at the display and can see some people being there quite a bit longer.

Maureen Dunkel of Tampa agrees an appearance in a home show is a little different for such classy finery. She is the owner of the dresses that are part of 14 she bought as an investment at a Christie's auction in New York City just months before Diana died.

She has had some difficulty in seeing her investment in the gowns be fruitful, but still would like to see a permanent museum. The display also will make a stop in a home show in St. Louis, and Dunkel sees such visits as a way of generating interest in the collection.

"There's no sense in having them sit in storage," she says about the 3,000-square-foot collection that will include exhibits of other personal items.

The home show also is trying to provide other displays and elements that should be hard to pass up, DeSantis says.

He thinks a raffle for a $50,000 home makeover "will appeal to just about every homeowner," as will the ever-popular Ultimate Garden Display.

"We want to give the people something they can't walk by," says Joshua Parise from Pittsburgh Pond and Stone in New Kensington. He says the display with stone-oriented water features will offer the lean lines of the "Frank Lloyd Wright, Prairie-style" school of design.

While the display will be more that 4,000 square feet in size, Parise says the effort is to show what can be done with the average backyard. He believes most people think they need a great deal of space to create a dramatic backyard.

"I'll say to someone, 'You have 50-by-20• We can do something,' " he says.

Also doing "something" in the backyard -- or other places -- is Bob Gierl of Barebones Inc. The company creates synthetic ice-skating surfaces that can be used outdoors or inside. They require no cooling and, hence, no ice.

The polyethylene surfaces snap together "like a jigsaw puzzle" and create an ice-like surface that can stand up to the hard skating that would be produced in hockey games. All they need is a flat, hard surface such as an indoor floor or a driveway.

He admits, though, they are not cheap, saying a 25-by-35 rink "would be the price of a car."

But he says the parents in a neighborhood or those of a junior hockey team could go together to buy one, getting rid of all the fees for icetime and travel.

"Then the payback would begin to happen," he says.

DeSantis sees the home show as being an event that thrives on variety. From Princess Diana's gowns, he says, to a display that will have cooktops showing off "the kitchen in action," the show "tries to exist on different levels.

Additional Information:

Duquesne Light Home & Garden Show

When: Friday-March 11. 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sundays, 4-10 p.m. Monday-March 8

Admission: $10; $4 for ages 6 to 12; free for age 5 and younger

Where: David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown

Details: 412-231-8400

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