Behind the Scenes

behind-the-scenes

behind-the-scenes

At the Parade of Homes

By Holli Moncrieff
Photo credit: Images courtesy of Maric Homes

It’s 11:45 on a Saturday morning.

In quiet neighbourhoods and suburbs all over the city, people are scrambling. Landscapers are rolling in that last bit of sod, and interior decorators have noticed a spot on a cabinet that needs dusting. Perhaps that end table should be moved just an inch to the left.

In just 15 minutes, the annual Fall Parade of Homes will begin.

“The Parade of Homes is like a swan—it looks serene on the surface, but it’s paddling like hell underneath to stay afloat,” says Mike Moore, President of the Manitoba Home Builder’s Association (MHBA). “It’s not unusual to see people rolling out the last vestiges of sod at 11:45 that Saturday before the Parade starts at noon.”

Why the last-minute frenzy? After all, builders know which homes they’ll be entering in the Parade a year or more in advance. Moore explains it’s all a matter of timing.

“The suppliers and sub-trades are the ones that have to get the work done to finish the homes, but everything has to be done in the proper order,” he says. “One week of heavy rain, and that order is thrown into chaos.”

The MHBA’s Parade of Homes is the largest event of its kind in the world. For over 30 years, it has provided Manitobans with a unique opportunity to view the latest and greatest achievements of the home-building industry.

Over 40,000 people attend each Parade of Homes, and that’s a lot of pressure. In a show home, everything is supposed to be perfect.

Even though the builders are the ones in the spotlight, it is the suppliers who are the unsung heroes of the event. Without the suppliers providing everything that goes into the homes, the Parade simply wouldn’t happen.

“Many of our suppliers are also sponsors that support the Parade, and often the suppliers also do the install of the products or material. Suppliers are critical,” says Moore. “They’ve got to fit a very tight schedule to make sure the homes are ready in time for Parade. Some have their show homes done now and others will be going right up to the last minute. As consumers, we just show up and think that everything magically appears.”

Complicating this schedule is the fact that most suppliers are working with several different builders at a time. They may be responsible for quite a few different show homes in the Parade.

“You better have started your house a year early to be ready for Parade. Everything has to be done before the event starts,” Moore says. “The Parade is an opportunity for suppliers to show off their new products. All of these homes are professionally decorated. Some people go into them just to get new ideas for their existing homes.”

The Fall Parade of Homes is one of the biggest events in the homebuilding industry. It includes a formal gala for MHBA members, and an awards ceremony for the category winners. The Parade Committee meets every month, and there are 10 builders that help plan and run the event.

Organizing the various activities is enough to keep the MHBA busy for most of the year, says Moore.

“The gala at the Winnipeg Convention Centre is a major production — 800 people attend. It’s the highlight of the year for our builder members. A million and one details go into this event.”

The Parade of Homes awards include several categories in each price range. Builders of condominiums, single-family bungalows, and single-family two-storeys compete to win gold, silver, or bronze.

“Builders are competing against other houses in the same price range as theirs. We try to get five entries in each category,” Moore says. “The awards are of influence. Builders put them on display in their show homes and use them in their marketing.”

Manitoba’s Parade of Homes was inspired by a Minneapolis event at least 30 years ago. Moore says some association members were skeptical in the beginning.

“Whenever someone has a new idea, there’s always people saying it will never work, but the Parade was championed by people who have been leaders in adapting a great idea to what we have here,” he says. “It’s a fantastic way to market new homes, and it’s just grown year after year.”

Six years ago, there were under 80 homes entered in the Parade. Last year, there were 122 homes.

Many of Manitoba’s smaller builders don’t have marketing and advertising budgets. The Parade gives these builders a valuable opportunity to have their work noticed.

“From a builder’s standpoint, it allows everybody to be on the same stage at the same time. They’re all in it together. A small builder may not have a marketing and advertising budget, yet here he is on the same stage with the bigger builders,” says Moore. “The smaller builders would never be able to afford the promotion and publicity that comes with the Parade on their own.”

The Parade is also a chance to promote smaller neighbourhoods alongside the city’s larger, well-known developments.

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“We’re seeing tremendous growth in the city’s outlying communities. We always have homes in Oakbank, Oak Bluff, Dugald, and Headingley included in the Parade. Add Stonewall to that mix and it gives consumers choice. That’s what we’re all about,” Moore says. “Everybody knows what the big developments are. This gives builders the opportunity to promote their much smaller neighbourhoods. The Parade creates extra awareness for consumers.”

A wide range of homes are on display during the Parade — everything from condos to bungalows and two-storey homes.

“There’s definitely something for everyone, from young couples who are starting out to the other end of the spectrum — empty-nesters looking at downsizing,” says Moore. “Our biggest audience is between the ages of 35 and 55. They already have a house and are looking to upgrade. Perhaps they’ve expanded their family or expanded their income. They’re not only in the position of knowing what they want, but they have the ability to go out and get it.”

Moore says he often receives calls from building associations in other provinces who are eager to recreate Manitoba’s success.

“The truly amazing thing is that our event is unique in Canada. It’s bigger and better than anything like it in the country. There is something very special that takes place here,” he says. “Everybody has different reasons as to why it works for them.”

There’s plenty of buzz surrounding each Parade of Homes — sometimes too much.

“We do such a good job of promoting the Parade of Homes that people think that’s the only time show homes are open. We spend the rest of the year saying, ‘hey, we’re still open for business!’ It’s our own fault — we’re victims of our own success,” Moore says. “People still do come but there is a misconception that show homes aren’t open year-round.”

The Fall Parade of Homes will begin at noon on September 13 and run until October 5.

“The Fall Parade is always exciting because you can see the yard and landscaping. Everything’s green and the walks are clean. The show homes are always perfect inside, but in the fall they’re perfect outside as well,” says Moore. “We encourage people to see as many homes as possible. You can get the best of all worlds by visiting a variety of show homes. Show homes are still the best places to see new trends in the industry.”