WATERLOO — As a volunteer sat on a chair next to him, Curt Strutz — otherwise known as Cletus, one of the Hillbilly Scientists — spun a spiral with a cordless drill, instructing the crowd to watch the spiral for just 10 seconds.
Then, the crowd looked at the volunteer, whose head suddenly appeared to balloon in size.
“It’s a combination of science and illusion,” Cletus explained after the gasps subsided. “Once you took your eyes away from that spinning disc and at (the volunteer), your eyes corrected themselves.”
Once patrons stepped inside the Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center in Waterloo for the Eastern Iowa Home and Landscaping Show, their eyes corrected themselves from the snow and cold outside to the spring-like atmosphere inside, too.
The show, now in its 68th year, brought more than 120 businesses into every nook and cranny of the convention center, each hoping that more than a few of the 5,000-plus attendees would stop and get some ideas for upgrading their homes and gardens. The show continues from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. today.
“People are hungry for spring,” said John Bunge, show producer with Iowa Show Productions, which has put on the home show since 1975. “It’s cold, but we live in Iowa, and this is the place to be if you’re cold and cooped up.”
The quickest way to get warmed up from the subfreezing temperatures outside may well have been to stop by the Fireplace Creations booth, where several working gas fireplaces burned brightly for passersby.
Installer Laney Poyner, who’s come to the home show for 22 years with the Waterloo business, spent around five hours Wednesday hooking up fireplaces.
“Almost everybody I know is here,” Poyner said, pointing out a cousin manning a different booth nearby. “That’s what makes it so neat.”
Al Myers, owner of Myers Home Improvements in Grundy Center, said this show and another he goes to in Marshalltown are great ways to get his business in front of thousands of people. He said people have called him up years later with a business card they picked up at the home show.
“You just get to see a lot of people, and it kind of sets up your year,” Myers said.
It was Jon Black’s first year at the home show with Alerts That Work, a Garner-based fire prevention company.
“I think it’s really nice,” he said of the show. “There are lots of different companies and local businesses, and not bad traffic.”
Besides the Hillbilly Science Show, the other popular seminars this year include the “Mole Hunter” teaching people how to rid their yards of the tunneling mammals, according to Bunge.
“He gives people tips on how to kill moles and other rodents, and does it in a humorous fashion,” he said.
Admission is $6 for adults and free for kids 12 and younger.