Yesterday, my cousin and friend, Joanne Frehse from Charlotte came to visit and I told her about entering the Flower Show at the South Greenville Fair shortly after I moved to South Carolina last July. I remembered that I had written about the experience, and Joanne encouraged me to post it to my blog. So today I offer you another variation on my Spring gardening theme and a little slice of southern living. Hope you enjoy it.
Throughout my busy life in New Jersey, I often scanned the newspaper’s list of “Things to Do This Weekend” and lingered longingly over events I wanted to attend like concerts, garden shows and community fairs. Then I’d finish my coffee, fold the newspaper and start cleaning, cutting grass, doing laundry or any one of a million other things on my to-do list. No more. Now, I get out my I-phone, bring up the calendar and start adding events. Retired life is good!
One of the most genuinely enjoyable events I attended so far has been the 58th Annual South Greenville Fair on Saturday, September 19th. The Fair consisted of various events intended “to educate and inspire community celebration of the science and technology of plant and animal production through youth participation involving the 4-H and FFA organizations”. (I vaguely remember learning about the 4-H club as a youngster in school, but other than that, I only ever heard mention of the FFA in the Dixie Chick’s song, Good-bye Earl).
Anyway, the Fair’s events included Goat, Rabbit, Dairy Cattle, Beef Cattle, Dog and Horse Shows. All-day events included the Antique Engine and Tractor Show, Grandpa’s Farm Show, an Art Show and what brought me there — the Flower Show. My sister and I learned about the Flower Show when we attended our first Simpsonville Garden Club meeting at the Rotary Club on East Main Street the Tuesday before the Fair. (It was as down-homey as it sounds. They served iced-tea and water, a cream pie and fruit. )
The topic of the meeting was how to prepare a horticulture entry for judging in the Flower Show competition. Thelma Barnett, Horticulture Entries Consultant, and mother of the current President Christine Barnett, explained requirements for cut specimens. In spite of the fact that my sister and I just walked in off the street, we were invited by club members to partake in the refreshments and strongly encouraged to submit entries .
I immediately thought of the wild ageratum my sister gave me when I moved in to my new condo and how gloriously it had been blooming throughout July and August. Yes, I admit it. I may be retired, but the thrill of competing for a prize made my pulse quicken. Even my non-competitive sister whispered to me, “I could enter my dahlias.”
That night, I went out and watered the ageratum well…just as we were told to. The next morning, I located an old glass olive oil bottle. I went outside and carefully cut a stem from my ageratum and lovingly wrapped it in plastic wrap to secure the stem in the bottle neck, exactly as we were instructed to at the Garden Club meeting. When I completed the tag with the appropriate information — I’d looked up the Latin name, Conoclinium coelestinum, online the night before — I glanced over at one of only two plants I was able to bring South with me when I moved…a salmon-colored angel wing begonia. I remembered there was a potted plant category. How could I not enter this graceful plant…one of at least half a dozen plants I’d started from cuttings from one mother plant that bloomed constantly in my New Jersey kitchen over the past two winters, making me smile and giving me hope even on the bleakest days in February? Yes, this beauty deserved to be in a Flower Show.
My sister and I arrived at the Fair around 1:30 on Saturday. In spite of the fact that we were both hungry, we went straight to the Community Building. We giggled like school girls, recounting all the television shows and movies we’d seen about competitions like this one…not completely willing to admit how much we really wanted to win.
When we entered the building, I turned to the right and there was my begonia with a 2nd prize blue sticker on it. I couldn’t stop smiling. We walked down the next row and there sat my ageratum, a 3rd prize red sticker attached. I was starting to feel a little light-headed. As we rounded the last row of exhibits, my sister became discouraged. The day before she nearly backed out of entering saying we didn’t stand a chance of winning. Just as she said, “My entry must have been disqualified,” I spotted her dahlias on a table apart from the other exhibits. I grabbed her by the arm and pulled her over to the table, where her Crème de Cassis Dahlias proudly bore a 1st place sticker and ribbon! Now we were both positively giddy.
Basking in the afterglow of our success, we strolled through the Art Show, then outside where we got barbecue rib sandwiches from the man who won first prize in the BBQ Cookoff competition. Yum! After that we had freshly churned, homemade ice cream. We each got a mix of chocolate and vanilla with Reese’s Pieces. Get this…the Reese’s Pieces were actually pieces of Reese Cups chopped up in the ice cream.
We ended the day watching a girl of no more than 10 win a fist full of red ribbons riding her horse with such mastery that it took my breath away, reminding me of every dreamy horse book I read as a girl, from National Velvet to The Black Stallion. Sigh! It was clear to me that the South Greenville Fair fulfilled its mission to provide “a format for the community to see, experience, and help promote the value of our environment and natural resources to preserve our rural heritage”.
Now that I am retired, I have to admit, I sometimes hear “Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near”. Ironically, I also now have “world and time enough” to enjoy events like the South Greenville Fair. I have a feeling the pure pleasure of it all will keep my heart pumping a good, long while…that and the adrenaline rush of competing in the Flower Show. Just wait until next year…