Gaylord to host two gift shows at the same time

Arm holding shopping bags

Two Michigan gift shows will host in-person events in Gaylord on April 3-5.

By: Shandra Martinez

For the first time, the Gaylord Gift Show and the Northern Michigan Gift Show will not only be in the same city but on the same days.

Organizers are happy about the overlap, which will make it easier for retailers to plan for the coming season. The shows, which run April 3-5, are timed so stores can receive orders in time for Memorial Day, the unofficial start of the Northern Michigan summer tourist season.

“Our attendees will see many Michigan- made products, resort apparel, specialty goods, toys, jewelry, accessories, gifts, garden, home décor and more,” said Dennis Connors, whose company is contracted to coordinate the Gaylord Gift Show.

His father, Mike Connors, started the Gift, Gourmet & Souvenir Show in 1980 at the then brand-new Grand Traverse Resort in Traverse City. After a 17-year run there, the show moved to the Howe Arena in Traverse City for 11 years. From there, it settled into the North Central Michigan College in Petoskey for the next decade, followed by a few years at Ellison Place in Gaylord. This year, the show will be at the Treetops Resort and Spa Convention Center.

“The pandemic has proved to us that retailers still need to touch and feel firsthand the products that they want to stock their stores with,” said Connors, who will be hosting cocktail parties for buyers to mingle on Sunday and Monday from 4-6 p.m.

Well-established among exhibitors and visitors
The Northern Michigan Gift Show will be held seven miles away at Ellison Place. Items will include souvenirs, resort apparel, specialty food, packaging and labeling, jewelry, postcards, books, stickers, puzzles and more, many of them handcrafted and made in Michigan.

This event is open only to registered qualified buyers, who will need a valid sales tax license to register.

This show was started in 1953 by a small group of traveling manufacturers reps who used to call on Northern Michigan and found it hard to get to all the businesses spread out over the Upper Peninsula and northern tip of the Lower Peninsula.

“They recognized the huge tourism potential of the area and wanted to support it with a trade event of its own,” said Jim Liska, whose firm, Expo Promotions, is contracted by the nonprofit group that owns Northern Michigan Gift Show to run the annual event.

The show was first held at the Park Place Hotel in Traverse City from 1953 to 1963, and then at Boyne Mountain Resort in Boyne Falls for the next two years. In 1966, the show moved to the newly built Boyne Highlands in Harbor Springs, where it settled for 56 years. The show relocated to Gaylord in 2022 because Boyne Highlands is rebuilding its Main Lodge hotel, and will likely stay in Gaylord for at least three years.

Many of the exhibitors and the store owners are the second generation to attend the shows.

“The show tends to take on an ‘old home week’ family atmosphere,” Liska said. “Most of those in the building know each other and are very well acquainted, having done business together for so long.”