By Nigel F. Maynard. Las Vegas is a one-of-a-kind, make-believe city. Where else can you lose your shirt at the high-stakes table, see an elaborate stage production, or ride down the Grand Canal of Venice without actually going to Italy?

For one week in January, Vegas was also the site of the 2003 International Builders' Show. Now that the dust has settled, it's time to take a look back on one of the largest residential construction trade shows in the world.

This year's show occupied the equivalent of 21 football fields and had over 90,000 attendees. Anyone who has attended a show knows that the size can be overwhelming, and trying to see it all is as easy as looking for a black cat in a dark room. Manufacturers, therefore, need unique ways to draw a crowd.

On display

As usual, Kohler attracted people with their cool products, but the manufacturer also pulled people in with a large eye-catching booth and a large dance troupe. Not to be out-done, Hansgrohe also featured dancing girls doing an impressive Riverdance-like riff that was quite popular with onlookers.

For the attendees who wanted a more hands-on approach, tool manufacturers such as Stanley, Senco, and DeWalt provided an opportunity for pros to take new cordless drills and routers for a test drive. Gastronomic-minded attendees sought nourishment from the cooking demonstrations at the GE booth, while others had their photos taken with the biker babe on the Harley at Capitol Windows and Doors.

The main attraction

Photo: Scott More

The meat and potatoes for people, of course, are the products. One popular introduction was GE's Harmony laundry-care system, which includes a washer and dryer that electronically communicate with each other. The washer tells the dryer where to preset dry cycles, so once the wash cycles are selected, there is no need to program the dryer.

Photo: Scott More

Pella says the Impervia is made from a five-layer Duracast fiberglass composite that is nine times stronger than vinyl and twice as strong as aluminum.

Pella offered the Impervia, a window made from Duracast fiberglass composite material. It is nine times stronger than vinyl and twice as strong as aluminum, the manufacturer says. Moreover, it is impervious to extreme heat, moisture, and cold so it is virtually maintenance free.

If protection from the elements is what you are looking for, DuPont's StormRoom and Pactiv Corp.'s GreenGuard RainDrop housewrap are worth a look.

The StormRoom is a residential in-home storm shelter that features walls reinforced with Kevlar to protect homeowners from flying debris during a tornado. Ideal for new-home construction, the unit is bolted to a slab foundation, can be finished to match the walls of the house, and is available in several rectangular configurations.

Offering a one-step water barrier and drainage system, GreenGuard RainDrop housewrap features channels that move water down to the base of the exterior wall. This allows the walls to dry faster and facilitates airflow along the exterior face of the wrap, the manufacturer says.

And there you have it, a sampling of some of the cool stuff seen at this year's show. Keep watching BUILDER in the coming months for more information on some of the hottest and newest introductions that will raise the "wow" factor in your homes.

Screened protection: Marvin says its Casemaster has an industry-first wood screen that blends with the profile of the window frame.

Compatible pair: The Profile Harmony clothes-care system features a laundry pair that communicates electronically with each other.

Photo: Scott More

Wind resistant: The StormRoom by DuPont is an in-home storm shelter reinforced with Kevlar in the wall panels to stop and deflect wind-borne debris.

Water repellent: Pactiv's GreenGuard RainDrop housewrap features water drainage channels that move water down to the base of the exterior wall.

Photo: Scott More