Published April 19. 2013 4:00AM
Groton - That big tent erected in the Mystic Marriott parking lot could house a revival meeting.
And, in a way, that will be its purpose this weekend when it accommodates the overflow from "Eastern Connecticut's Premier Home Show," a two-day event aimed at nothing less than reviving the local economy.
"It's going to be pretty spectacular," Tony Sheridan, president and chief executive officer of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut, said Thursday.
More than 175 vendors have booked the available space in and near the hotel's two ballrooms and inside the tent, and organizers expect a total of 10,000 to 15,000 people to attend Saturday and Sunday.
In a first-time collaboration, the chamber and the Builders and Remodelers Association of Eastern Connecticut are teaming up to sponsor the show, which replaces an event held in recent years at Mohegan Sun.
"We wanted to partner with a local group because that fits in with our 'buy local' program," Sheridan said. "Builders and small businesses have been really hurt in the economic downturn and we wanted to help do something about that. We've kept the focus on home construction, renovation and care, meaning landscaping, gardening and that sort of thing.
"It's all about local groups putting on a show to improve our retail economy."
Norton Wheeler, owner of the Mystic River Building Co., said the show will be more professionally oriented than some previous ones and entirely focused on home maintenance and improvement. He said the timing couldn't be better.
"At Mohegan Sun, the schedule there limited us to January, which was premature," Wheeler said. "April is perfect. That's when people are getting outside and thinking about their home."
Among the vendors commanding the most space are United Builders Supply Co., Ring's End lumber and Overhead Door Co. of Norwich, whose owner, Gary Wilensky, chairs the show's organizing committee.
"We're very encouraged" about the show's prospects for success, Wilensky said. "It's a good partnership and the Marriott is a great showcase. It's kind of hard to gauge how many will come, but over the course of the weekend, we're looking for 10,000 to 15,000 people."
He said vendors will be presenting the latest in energy efficiency and design, and will, of course, be happy to take orders.
The show also will feature "Canstruction," a display of structures built out of 15-ounce cans of food that will be donated to charity after the show. Tri-Town Foods grocery stores and Bozzuto's Inc., a Cheshire-based wholesale distributor, donated 16,000 cans, and more were collected at Eastern Savings Bank and Wireless Zone locations, according to Bence Strickland, The Day's advertising manager, who spearheaded the project.
Five teams have fashioned sculptures out of the cans in a competition that will be judged Sunday. After the event, the Gemma E. Moran United Way Labor Food Center in New London will pick up the cans, which amount to more than eight tons of food, Strickland said.