TROY, NY — The Capital Region Flower and Garden Expo, formerly the Capital District Garden and Flower Show, returned as an in-person event.
Hosted over the weekend at Hudson Valley Community College, the event drew thousands to the McDonough Sports Complex and raised funds for Wildwood Programs.
This year’s Expo was sponsored by MVP Healthcare Partners, radio station B95.5, Albany.com, and Channel 6/Capital Region CW 15.
More than 1600 florists, gardening retailers, outdoor-themed exhibitors, and New York state food and wine vendors filled the Complex. A weekend-long schedule was set for lectures and demonstrations in addition to the displays and exhibitions. The large crowds that constantly moved through the event made one thing clear — after missing the Expo due to the pandemic, it was good to be back.
“This is wonderful,” commented Shawn Gonzalez, who has been working the Expo for eight years minus the pandemic. “The engagement with customers through social media has been phenomenal. People are looking to get out of the house and come to the show. It’s good for the college, it’s good for the vendors, it’s good all around.”
There were some changes to this year’s Expo due to the challenges of the pandemic. The garden area of the Expo was scaled down from previous years and there was no judging or voting on displays. Instead the florist designers’ area was scaled up, and florists were encouraged to make large displays to fill the room.
Gonzalez’s wife Pennie, who was in charge of this year’s Expo, said that overcoming the challenges of the pandemic and getting back to the Expo was important in a lot of ways.
“We knew the longer we were away, the harder it would be to get it going again,” she said. “The show’s longevity kept it going. We have a lot of loyal vendors and longtime fans. Some of our biggest challenges this year were the supply and labor shortages we’re seeing, they really affected our vendors.
“We had to make changes to reflect and accommodate that.”
Pennie said that being able to support Wildwood Programs made the struggles and challenges all worth it. A portion of every ticket sale was donated to Wildwood, and many program participants came to see the Expo. Some even had opportunities to work the Expo as part of life skills training.
Wildwood Programs, a nonprofit organization with offices and program locations around the Capital District, provides supports and services to “people of all ages with conditions described as developmental disabilities, complex learning disabilities, and autism spectrum disorders.” Founded in 1967, Wildwood has partnered with the Flower and Garden Expo since its beginning in 1988.
To learn more about Wildwood Programs, visit them online at www.wildwood.edu.
“Seeing their individuals come through is very motivating and rewarding,” Pennie said. “For some of them, the show is like Christmas. They get so excited to be here. They’re part of the fabric of the show, and it’s a great opportunity for public awareness of who they are and what they do.”
Besides the benefit to Wildwood Programs, Pennie’s favorite part of the Expo is being able to bring spring to the Capital Region early.
“I love seeing the bright and cheeriness ahead of season, and I love seeing the passion of the floral designers,” she said.
One exhibitor who shared Pennie’s feelings was Ambiance Floral. Melissa Petalas, whose sister Michele Peters owns the company, said they really enjoyed the changes to this year’s Expo, which allowed florists like Peters to go all-out with big, beautiful floral displays.
“This was a unique feature for the florists,” Petalas commented. “Doing a big display is extremely time-consuming, but totally worth it. You get to see the creative flair of all the individual florists. It creates opportunities for them to show what they can do for special events. Michele definitely had fun creating her Easter-themed display.”
Petalas continued, “It’s an absolutely terrific feeling to be back. We’ve been doing the show since the beginning. We love that we get to be part of a staple in the Capital District. We love being able to display. The displays here are simply spectacular. I love seeing people’s reactions to them, and seeing how after putting in so many hours, all of it comes together.”