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Everything gets easier with practice. Held outdoors for the second time in its 193-year history, the latest edition of the Philadelphia Flower Show is being met with praise — and relief.
Most visitors strolling the 15-acre grounds seemed to have good things to say about the event, whether they’d been coming for years or were experiencing the floral extravaganza for the first time.
“We love it outside, it’s so much better here,” said Tia, a Philly resident who came out Friday evening with two other friends.
The trio of women, who said they were all in their late 20s, marveled at the skill on display in the kids’ artwork that filled an outdoor gallery section as they sipped on lemonades and cocktails. Two had been to the show before; the other had not but said she was pleasantly surprised to discover something that lived up to the hype.
“My grandma always used to go,” she said. “This is dope.”
Last year, the outdoor setting was forced by the pandemic — and the process was far from easy. On top of navigating the COVID mitigation measures in place at the time, organizers and exhibitors had to figure out all the logistics involved with transferring a show structured for the controlled environment of the Pa. Convention Center to the middle of a natural park.
The results weren’t always well-received. The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, the nonprofit for whom the annual event is a major fundraiser, even issued an apology for long lines and concession stands that didn’t live up to expectations.
This year, PHS worked to transform the corner of South Philly’s FDR Park into something new and accessible, while also paying homage to the venue itself. One exhibit honored the park’s designers, the Olmsted brothers, and another incorporated the park’s 96-year-old American Swedish Historical Museum.
Some attendees said the outdoor setting is what enticed them to come.
“It’s our first time,” said Shahadah, 27, walking by as she shared snacks with her date Girard, 30. “It seemed like a great way to spend an evening, outside in a park.”
From Chicago and Detroit, respectively, the couple recently landed in Philly because of a CHOP medical residency, and said the show was a welcome opportunity to get to know their new city. “We love it here,” Girard said, adding with a laugh, “And people don’t misspell my name!”
Even if some show-goers preferred the guaranteed cool of an indoor setting, they appreciated this year’s layout and design.
“I prefer inside, because I can enjoy the displays without looking for shade,” explained Anja, who said she’d been to the show half a dozen times before and described her age group as “60 and up.” Despite the heat, she was enjoying herself.
“Much better than last year,” Anja added. “There’s more stuff, they did a great job utilizing the space.
Many of the floral exhibitions this year purposely incorporated places for visitors to sit and relax while taking in the displays.
Even exhibits that didn’t have actual seats often took advantage of the park’s large, natural setting to let people take in and experience the elements and designs from multiple angles or views — from below, for example, or from a hidden nook.
Refreshment stands were spread throughout the show, with a wide variety of options that were plant-based or gluten-free, addressing one of the most common issues raised last year.
The designated “Food Bazaar” offered tented areas set up to sit to enjoy a break. and food trucks from around the region offered signature dishes, like noodles from Sang Kee, crab cakes from Albie’s, and ice cream from Dre’s.
More than 120 vendors showcased goods and crafts for sale at the “Marketplace” tents lined up throughout the grounds, offering garden tools, jewelry, decor, artwork, apparel and other wares.
Attendees got a chance to build their container gardens in the “Potting Parties” area, and make their own candles and dried flower arrangements on “Artisan Row.”
The show runs through Sunday, June 19. Tickets are $50 or $35 if you’re under the age of 30. Kids are $25, with under 4 years old let in for free.
Scroll down to check out some more photos from the grounds.