By EDWARD HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Ava Miller of Quincy didn't flinch as a three-inch-long Madagascar hissing cockroach crawled along her arm Saturday inside the Oakley-Lindsay Center's convention hall, where the WGEM Home and Living Home is under way all weekend.
"It's cool," Ava said. "I've never seen a roach so big."
Ava and some family members had stopped at the Reliable Pest Solutions booth, which is always one of the show's most popular booths -- "or one of the most feared booths," added Dave Hirner, Reliable's director of sales and marketing.
Hirner breeds giant cockroaches and brings them to the Home Show to create a buzz among patrons. "The girls are less afraid of the bugs than the boys are," he said.
Hirner also created a stir with his Mealworm Challenge, in which patrons are invited to eat a "very, very cooked" mealworm spiced with Critter Crunch Seasoning.
Ava's mom, Jillian Miller, didn't flinch either as she popped a mealworm in her mouth, chewed and swallowed. "It's crunchy and salty," she reported.
The 36th annual Home Show is offering up many other tastes, sights and sounds this weekend. The event drew big crowds Friday and Saturday and continues today from noon to 4 p.m. Admission is $4.
Amy Carothers, general sales manager for WGEM, said all booth spaces at the Home Show were booked by early November, with well over 130 vendors vying for a chance to show their wares and explain their services to visitors.
"There are a lot of small businesses within 80 miles of Quincy, and this is venue for them to come and bring their products to people rather than wait for people to come to them," she said. "We're all trying to save time and money. So you can come here, pay a few bucks to get in and talk to several people that may have a product that would enhance what you're trying to do."
Dorothy and Zane Keylor of Timewell were among the patrons Saturday. They come just about every year because "it's something to do" on a cold winter's day, Zane Keylor said.
"We like to look at different stuff," Dorothy Keylor said. "And it's just nice to get out. We've been snowed in all week."
One of the most popular spots in the convention center Saturday afternoon was an intersection where vendors had two large-screen TVs showing the Quincy Notre Dame girls basketball team winning its third straight state championship. Large crowds gathered and cheered.
"It was great," said Jay Smith, owner of M.P.T. Inc., a remodeling and construction business. His booth overlooked both TVs. "I have a great spot," he said.
Smith said the Home Show is always a good place to meet potential clients. "We usually get 10 to 12 really good contacts," he said.