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Your Home Is Your Casa 

Home & Garden Show whisks homeowners to Italy.

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Nearly 900 home-improvement vendors, 30 gardens in bloom, and three full-scale model homes greet homeowners and green thumbs alike for the start of this weekend's Home & Garden Show. Playing up the show's "Bella Italia" theme, organizers have also turned the I-X Center into a Roman piazza, complete with Italian cuisine, Mediterranean-inspired landscaping, and bocce-ball court. And in the plaza's bistro, the entertainment lineup includes opera singers, strolling accordion players, and the I Gagliardi Italiani dance troupe in festival garb.Gina Martini will also wait in the wings for her turn to perform six concerts. The 12-year-old Girard Junior High School seventh-grader plans to sing Italian pop standards like "Volare," "Santa Lucia," and "Mambo Italiano." But she's not freaking about performing in front of more than 100,000 spectators; her résumé boasts dozens of gigs, including appearances at the 2006 All-American Soap Box Derby, many Northeast Ohio festivals, and a handful of Tribe and Cavs pre-game shows at which she's sung the national anthem. "It's exhilarating when everyone gets up to salute the flag," says Gina. "Then everyone claps, and you feel so good."Along with the music, experts will be on hand to tackle questions about lawn care, interior design, and recycling. But for Gina, the fest is a chance to pay homage to her own Italian heritage. "Gina is grounded. She doesn't have to brag," says her dad, Vince. "But I think she's generated interest in other kids to try to sing." The show runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and Sunday, February 10; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday, February 4 through Thursday, February 7; 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday, February 8; and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, February 9, at the I-X Center, 6200 Riverside Drive. Tickets are $13 ($4 for kids age 6 to 12). Call 1-800-600-0307 or visit www.homeandflower.com.
Sundays, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Feb. 4-7, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri., Feb. 8, 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 9, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Starts: Feb. 3. Continues through Feb. 10, 2008

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