It came down to this.
David Schmetterling, with his wife and close friend, had spent hours planning. They had a concept ready to go, and with his woodworking and design background, Schmetterling was confident in his ability.
They had only seven hours to complete the challenge — a set of outside chairs and a table made completely of old gardening tools — and time was flying by.
That was Schmetterling’s second year participating in Home ReSource’s annual Spontaneous Construction event.
“That’s one of the amazing things about the event,” Schmetterling said. “As a contestant building something, the time just blows by ... What you can accomplish in that time period is challenging.”
SponCon participants have seven hours to create whatever they want. The only catch: It has to be built of reused materials available at the store, and made within the seven-hour time frame.
“It’s one of the most unique, and uniquely Missoula, events we have,” Schmetterling said. “It’s such a wonderful opportunity as a participant or a spectator to see all of the creative genius people we have in Missoula.”
The event began 10 years ago in an effort to promote Home ReSource and celebrate reusing.
“We have such a throw-away society and I think most people know a lot of the pieces of the impacts of not reusing things,” said Katie Deuel, executive director of Home ReSource. “Our landfills are filling up, they take up space, they create pollutants into aquifers and they create greenhouse gases. When we reuse, we’re keeping things out of the landfill.”
But, Deuel said, there’s more to reusing than environmental protection. It keeps products affordable, supports local economies and can be creative and fun. That’s where SponCon comes in.
Participants don’t have to have any experience. Deuel said SponCon sees people from professional contractors, to artists, to families looking for a fun, unique activity.
“You don’t have to be a welder, you don’t have to be a furniture-maker, but just have an idea and just a willingness to try something,” Schmetterling said. “A lot of times people have a great start and it doesn’t end up well, but that’s a part of the fun and a part of the challenge.”
There are two categories: professional and amateur. Home ReSource provides tools for the latter.
An average of 500 spectators arrive at Home ReSource each year, cheering on builders, eating from the variety of vendors or engaging in one of the other activities. These include a mini SponCon for children, giant Jenga and live music.
“Part of this is celebrating this whole culture of reuse,” Deuel said, “and trying to inspire people about what’s possible. We’re not all builders, we’re not all artists.”
Schmetterling said he watched for years before participating himself.
“The really amazing thing is to come and see what other people can make, and get inspired from them,” Schmetterling said. “People will turn things into beautiful and quite valuable works of art or functional pieces.”
These projects range from tables to instruments to dog houses to sculptures to water balloon catapults. One year, Deuel said, someone built a freshly painted baker’s hitch from 23 different items.
Once the seven hours are up, judges from a variety of backgrounds choose the top 10. The finalists' work is then auctioned off at a separate event in October to raise money for Home ReSource, a nonprofit.
Schmetterling’s projects have all been finalists. His chair and table set won the grand prize.
However, participants still win prizes even if their work is not chosen. Prizes are donated from a variety of Missoula businesses.
“It’s a contest where everybody wins,” Deuel said.
This year’s event begins Saturday at 9 a.m. People can sign up to participate until the day of the event or until all spots are filled.