PITTSBURGH -- Giant Eagle here reached out to area families as the presenting sponsor of the city's first Baby Faire.
Similar events, held in Boston and Philadelphia, are sponsored in part by Stop & Shop and Genuardi, respectively.
Held Oct. 14 and 15 in the city's Expo Mart, the Pittsburgh Baby Faire brought in nearly 10,000 parents and children, according to Kim Whittaker, president of Boston-based Baby Faire, the coordinator of the event.
Giant Eagle and some of its suppliers had a large chunk of space in the center atrium of the exhibit center, Whittaker said. While Giant Eagle officials were not available for comment about the sponsorship, Whittaker said executives of the chain were pleased with the results, especially considering that Saturday was punctuated by torrential rains. "Just shy of 10,000 people is very good for a first-year show," she noted. The Boston show, which completed its third year of operation, drew 10,000, 18,000 and 25,000, respectively. "I think it would probably be difficult to do those huge numbers in Pittsburgh. I don't know if it has the 25,000-attendee potential.
"But certainly, it has the potential to grow every year. The consumers who came to the show were pleasantly surprised and saw a tremendous amount of value in it."
Whittaker has scheduled Oct. 5 and 6 as the dates for next year's Pittsburgh Baby Faire. "It looks as though Giant Eagle will be coming back as the presenting sponsor," she said. "We still have the details to work out, but our review meeting [with chain executives] indicated a very positive response and certainly some interest in moving forward with the program.
"Initially," said Whittaker, "the Pittsburgh market was cynical about a baby show. We didn't find the market to be immediately open to this idea. There were several shows that preceded us that were not terribly successful, and it left a bad taste in people's mouths.
"We worked very hard to get everything to fit. We also executed a huge marketing campaign. We were everywhere -- TV, radio, billboards, direct mail, newspapers. Every time you turned around there was another Baby Faire commercial. Giant Eagle's name was always tied into it; the chain was on all of our advertising."
Giant Eagle definitely had a presence at the show. When SN stopped by on Saturday, the chain's name was everywhere, on banners and booths throughout the 100,000-square-foot exhibit floor, which was packed with costume characters, face-painters, magicians and the like.
The show also featured inflatable bounces for kids to enjoy, baby derby races, Mother Goose story land, and a petting zoo. Allegheny General, a local hospital, even had a stage set up where its pediatricians could answer questions about child care, although Whittaker doesn't really recommend this for a fair with children running around.
Many exhibitors gave out coupons, information and free samples. Gerber Products Co.'s booth showcased its Graduates line of junior foods.
Admission was $5 for adults. Dollar-off coupons were available at all Giant Eagle stores. There was no charge for children.
Next up for Baby Faire is the greater Washington area March 16 and 17. While no supermarket sponsor has been pegged, Landover, Md.-based Giant Food is a strong candidate, said Whittaker.