The area’s premiere new home tour, the Saratoga Showcase of Homes, will be celebrating its 25th Anniversary this coming fall.
It is truly part of the fabric of our fall season. For the record, there were two occasions when a showcase event did not take place. Back in 2009, due to the great recession, the showcase was cancelled, but it roared back in 2010 with 16 locations on tour. And last year, due to the pandemic, the 2020 “live” event was reimagined virtually into a televised special event featuring twelve builders, each filmed at their home locations. We are optimistic that this year’s silver milestone will include many beautiful, and even extraordinary homes for our region to enjoy!
My involvement as the Executive Director of the Saratoga Builders Association and Co-Chair of this event began in 2010. I was an avid fan and attendee back in the early 2000s, fascinated with how this unique event came together. Little did I know that one day, this wonderment would lead me to become deeply connected to it. My hat’s off to the past Executive Director, Kate Ferris, for her inspiration heading up this event from its inception through the first 15 years.
This show is a labor of love for everyone involved. There are countless details and special elements that make up the success and longevity of this event including the builders, suppliers, sponsors, media, volunteers, committee, judges, realtors, visitors and of course, the charities. The goal is to blend all these moving parts seamlessly together presenting a world-class show for the community.
Let me share with you how we do this…
Showcase planning each year begins during the cold doldrums of winter, at our first committee meeting in February. We generally have around twelve members. Our dedicated committee is the heart and soul of this event. The people and the dynamics do change from year to year, but several folks have been the foundation serving on this team for a long time – Lisa Licata, Co-Chair (on the committee for over half of the showcases!), Pamela Stott, Drew Aiello and Mark Hogan have all provided a continuous thread of commitment to this effort. Always in the spirit of camaraderie and purpose, this close-knit group pulls together every activity associated with the showcase. Whether coordinating the Realtor and Judges Tour or inspecting showcase homes or planning awards-night festivities or even stuffing mailings, this committee is hard at work making it happen for eight months before the event. I think we have the most fun together creating and developing the showcase theme every year, from “There’s No Place Like Home” to the “Magic of the Showcase” to “If You Build It, They Will Come.” In fact, the “Taste of Showcase” preview was introduced some years back to kick off the event with chefs cooking at showcase homes the Friday night prior to the opening of the tour. It was a hit and so we incorporated this “chefs” evening into three of the subsequent showcases. The committee innovated years ago by providing all attendees with “shoe bag/totes” to put their shoes in while walking through the newly finished homes. The bags have become quite popular, and I see them around town from time to time. And we have a blast lining up the entertainment for our lively showcase awards presentation ceremonies at the Vapor Club.
We’ve had a Beatles tribute band, The Rat Pack, comedians, a speed painter and even a world-renowned sword swallower. In the end, serving on the showcase committee is a rewarding and always stimulating experience.
The first Showcase of Homes was unveiled back in 1997. It was the brainchild of John Witt, considered the “father” of this now annual tradition. In fact, Witt Construction has been in EVERY showcase since then. There have been over forty different builders who have participated in the show over the years, with the perennial mainstays appearing nearly every year like Bella Home Builders, Belmonte Builders, Bonacio Construction, Heritage Custom Builders and of course Witt Construction. And in recent years, some talented newcomers have showed their stuff like Caruso Builders, Kodiak Construction, McPadden Builders, Trojanski Builders, and more. The builders are indeed the “Stars of the Show” wowing us with their creativity and craftsmanship with each new edition of the showcase. The builders are center stage in this production, even when they are rolling out the green carpet (AKA: those beautiful lawns!) the day before the tour opens!
Let’s talk showcase volunteers,
because it takes an army. Our two designated local charities - Rebuilding Together Saratoga and Habitat for Humanity - staff and organize ALL the volunteers for this event. And it is a monumental task for the two Executive Directors Michelle Larkin (RTSC) and Adam Feldman (HFH). Each home has a dedicated house Captain and two folks at the door assisting visitors, selling and checking tickets, handling cash and managing crowd control. Each shift is three hours long. It literally takes hundreds of volunteers to make this work and they do an incredible job no matter how many home locations we throw at them. In 2019, there were 19 homes on the tour (the largest showcase in our history), which meant that over 400 volunteers were needed! I see so many of the same friendly faces year after year, and it appears that they truly enjoy being much more than “greeters” and mingling with the nearly 4,000 visitors who pass through the homes. Their outstanding efforts over three weekends each fall is second to none.
These two important charities are at the core of this event. In the end, it’s one of the primary reasons we put the show on. The proceeds each year are donated to these organizations that do so much good for our community. And thankfully they have received over $1,300,000 since this event began!
Over the years, there have been many individuals who played key roles in helping the showcase become what it is today. Two individuals have gone above and beyond to spread the showcase magic merely by the contribution of their time and talent. The first is Randall Perry. He is the one that has been taking hundreds of amazing photos of the showcase homes from the beginning. His imagery and devotion to perfection is second to none. The showcase is better off because of Randall. Second is Liz Bishop. She has brought her flair, passion and energy helping us broaden our exposure. As our “face and spokesperson,” Liz has eloquently spread the word on our mission taking us to higher levels over the past 10 years.
We have been so very fortunate to have many marketing and media partners throughout the years providing an abundant source of dazzling materials heightening consumer awareness - Magazines like Simply Saratoga, Capital Region Building & Design and Saratoga Living; Newspapers like the Daily Gazette, Post Star, Times Union, Saratogian, Saratoga Today & Saratoga Business Journal; Agencies like Brawn Media, Mannix Marketing, Marci Fila (Real Estate Digital Designs) and Shannon Rose; Networks like Spectrum and CBS-6; And talent the likes of Liz Bishop, Marci Fraser, Donna Pennell, and Yvonne Perry.
It goes without saying that this unique, hometown fundraising event would not be possible in any way, shape, or form, without the generous support of our many corporate sponsors. We have about seventy-five each year, companies from the building industry to mortgage lenders to interior designers to construction suppliers to real estate brokers. You all know who you are and the Saratoga Builders Association, Showcase Committee and especially our two charities applaud your commitment to the Saratoga Showcase of Homes.
Lastly, special congratulations to all the attendees (our FANS!) of the showcase who support this annual self-guided tour with your enthusiasm and especially by purchasing tickets. We are indebted to you. Yes, the showcase event is a fundraiser, but it is also a very enjoyable, social experience. Where else can you meet the builders and their suppliers face to face, get the latest decorating and interior design ideas, and learn about trends in construction… while enjoying yourself and supporting a great cause?!
I can’t think of a more splendid way to spend a crisp, fall day than taking a ride to visit each house. And as with the volunteers, I see many of the same smiling faces each year wandering about these brand-new homes.
My wish and hope is that this spectacular local event will remain strong and vital to our community…
Here’s to the next twenty-five years!
Each home requires 25 volunteers (across all three weekends)
10 homes = 250 total volunteers!
Michelle and Scott have volunteered for 5+ years as husband and wife.
Kelly and Sandy have volunteered for 3+ years as mother and daughter.
Newport News Shipbuilding has volunteered as a corporate volunteer for 3+ years.
Jean and Jeff McLellan have volunteered every year to be Showcase House Captains, which means they oversee all the volunteers for a Showcase Home and typically coordinate for a John Witt home. Jeff is a retired school superintendent and former staff member of Rebuilding Together Saratoga. They have both been recognized as a Volunteer of the Year.
Marla and Kathleen, close friends and co-workers at Howard Hanna, have multiple years of volunteering with Rebuilding Together.
Volunteering to be a Showcase greeter is a great opportunity for a husband and wife, good friends or a parent and teenager to have a fun day together, help a charity raise money and bonus-they even get a free ticket to go on the Showcase of Homes Tour!
Twenty-Five years ago, a shovel was placed into the ground.
Ten volunteers met every Saturday for an entire year to build a home. A family committed 100 hours of sweat equity for their down payment.
Twenty-Five years ago, volunteers from around the region united around a common mission.
Builders donated their time to help a hard-working Saratoga family. A family purchased a home and started making monthly mortgage payments.
A pathway to affordable homeownership was made.
Twenty-Five years ago, and every year since, Habitat for Humanity families earn the right to become a Habitat Partner Family and purchase an affordable home in our amazing community.
AND Twenty-Five years ago, the Showcase of Homes and the Saratoga Builders Association made a commitment to promote and support the growth, prosperity and quality of life in Saratoga County.
That commitment has led to $1.3 million donated and hundreds of families improving their lives. Habitat for Humanity is humbled by the commitment of the many volunteers who put on this annual event and to all the guests who show up to see the distinguished work of our local builders, interior decorators and landscape architects.
THANK YOU, Showcase of Homes, for supporting a pathway to homeownership for so many Habitat for Humanity families!
Twenty-Five years ago, the cycle of poverty was broken.
THANK YOU, Showcase of Homes’ volunteers and their commitment to helping to provide everyone with a decent place to call home.
Twenty-Five years ago, the stability of homeownership planted the seed for generational change.
THANK YOU, Showcase of Homes’ builders, for volunteering their labor and materials towards building strength, stability, self-reliance, and shelter for Habitat’s hardworking families.
Twenty-Five years ago, a family began their journey of the American Dream.
THANK YOU, Showcase of Homes, for not only building beautiful homes but also building a beautiful community.
Twenty-Five years ago, a family found their forever home!
This year we celebrate Twenty-Five years of Showcase of Homes. And this year we burn the mortgage and celebrate a final mortgage payment for one of the many hardworking Habitat for Humanity families!
Thank You to the Saratoga Builders Association and Congratulations on the 25th Anniversary of The Showcase of Homes!
Since 2004, Rebuilding Together Saratoga County has been a nonprofit beneficiary of the Showcase of Homes, and this tremendous support from the Saratoga Builders Association has been invaluable to our efforts to help our neighbors in need live independently in safe and healthy homes. The Saratoga Builders Association’s commitment to supporting low-income homeowners in our community means that more seniors can safely bathe in walk-in showers. It means more low-income homeowners receive replacement roofs and windows, ensuring their homes are protected from moisture damage, and it means more veterans living with a disability receive exterior ramps for safe and independent egress from their homes.
Rebuilding Together Saratoga County works year-round to build healthy neighborhoods and ensure homeowners in need can live independently in safe and healthy homes. When qualified homeowners are not capable of making needed home repairs or accessibility modifications, Rebuilding Together Saratoga County coordinates the volunteers, contractors, tools, and supplies necessary to fix the homes. These services are provided at no cost to the homeowner. Rebuilding Together Saratoga County also works to rehabilitate properties that house qualifying nonprofit organizations serving our community. Our services are tailored to meet the needs of each individual homeowner and we focus on older adults, individuals living with disabilities, active and retired members of the armed services, and families with children.
In the 18 years since our founding, Rebuilding Together Saratoga County has repaired 1,379 homes, revitalized 103 nonprofit centers and community spaces, and replaced 20 substandard manufactured homes with the help of more than 10,672 volunteers who have dedicated over 81,847 hours of their time.
We are so grateful to everyone who comes together to make the Showcase of Homes possible each year. The support provided by the Saratoga Builders Association has been critical to our ability to provide repairs and accessibility modifications for our neighbors in need. Together, we are helping low-income homeowners remain safely and independently in their own homes and communities!
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