Thousands of people pulled themselves away from war coverage long enough to mingle in the sunshine Saturday and brave the rain Sunday to watch cooking shows and ponder the benefits of potting soils.

The 22nd annual Home and Garden Show at the Mother Lode Fairgrounds, coordinated by The Union Democrat, was lauded as a success by just about everyone in attendance.

Gary Piech, Union Demo-crat advertising manager, estimated between 6,000 and 7,000 people showed up Saturday and about 4,000 people attended Sunday. He said attendance was up a little from last year's show.

"I think maybe instead of sitting watching the TV, they decided to go out today," said Sheree Davis of the Sonora Trading Post. "I think it's a reason to break away."

Davis, standing amid recliners, sofas and tables, said this year's crowd seemed a little larger than last year's.

"Super. It's really amazing," said Pat Tippett of the turnout. Tippett was decked out in gardening coveralls and a straw hat as a method of advertising the wares at The Banyan Tree, which has stores in Sonora, Twain Harte and Angels Camp.

This was The Banyan Tree's first year at the show, and Tippett said she brought a selection of the stores' merchandise.

Sonora residents William and Paula Hamilton said they have attended the show for about five years.

"We can't buy everything we want, obviously," William Hamilton said. "We went looking for a flag, but found a fountain instead."

More than 130 exhibitors showed a plethora of products that appealed to all five senses. Pots of blooming flowers were set up outside, as were food booths, releasing tasty scents from makeshift kitchens. A whirlpool spa bubbled in the John Muir Building, and rapt audiences sat before white-smocked demonstrators who spoke into microphones while cooking with shining stainless steel appliances.

"I try to come every year," said Sonora resident Reenie McDonald. "I just like the new ideas."