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The Evolution of the Home and Garden Show

Whether its cleaning off or furnishing a patio, planting the first flowers or vegetables of the season or springing for new windows, new landscaping or new plumbing,  the organizers of the annual Milwaukee Realtors Home and Garden Show are aware that the shift in seasons brings spring cleaning and home improvement. 

With just a few breaks, the show has been a fixture in the area since 1892, which organizers say makes it the oldest show of its kind in the country.  This year’s runs through Saturday night at the State Fair Park in West Allis.

While this year's show features a tiny house, green landscaping and a plethora of home products, President of Greater Milwaukee Area Realtors (GMAR) Mike Ruzicka explains that a lot has evolved since 1892.

Credit Courtesy of the Home & Garden Show
This 1957 ad for in home telephones featured concealed wiring installation - "The neat way, the modern way, the smart way!"

"In the early days of the show, it focused on remodeling and home sales, a little bit of gardening," Ruzicka says. "But it was really after World War II where we saw a huge boom... In history in general, you look at the post-WWII era as when the economy really took off, and it certainly is true with the show, too."

The show has had technological developments to contend with over the years, explains Ruzicka. "In the late 1950's there was a decrease in attendance and they were blaming it on television. Luckily in the 1960's [the attendance] picked up again," notes Ruzicka. "It's kind of funny, that was TV, now its the internet, but our website only enhances the show, I think."

Its no fluke that the show is in the spring, either. "They recognized over 60-70 years ago that (late March) was the perfect time of the year to have it," says Ruzicka. "People were tired of winter, the snow was getting brown or gray...Everyone's ready for winter to be done."

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Audrey is a producer, host and reporter for Lake Effect. She is involved with every aspect of the show — from conducting interviews, editing audio, posting web stories and mixing the show together.