Wichita’s latest version of a garden show debuted last year and will expand just a bit this year when it is staged next weekend in Century II’s Expo Hall.
The Outdoor Living and Landscape Show will be Friday through March 3, featuring 130 vendors, seminars and garden displays. It drew 12,000 people in its first year in 2012, when it took the place of the long-running Wichita Garden Show. That show usually drew 35,000 to 40,000 people and was spread over five days and all three halls of Century II. But its expectations of grandeur had become too difficult and costly for garden centers to match and surpass every year, and 2011 was its last year.
The new Outdoor Living Show was designed to be smaller and more focused and was a success in 2012, said Brad Horning of Entercom radio, which puts on the show.
“I was happy” with the attendance numbers, Horning said. “What I want to see different is every single person waiting for what they remember as the Wichita Garden Show knowing that this is what replaced it. That was one thing I heard: I didn’t realize the garden show came and went, because of the name change and sponsor. I would love to see that increase.”
While the emphasis last year was on getting landscape-related businesses into the show, this year garden clubs will once again be represented.
“That’s something that was lacking” last year, Horning said. “Being the first year, I had no idea what to expect, how big the show would be,” how well it would be attended by the exhibitors. But that show sold out its space, as has this show, he said. There will be a few more vendors this year, he said, and he expects it would take some time if the show were ever to get big enough to require another hall at Century II.
“Getting the amount of compliments we got on the size of the show, the easibility of getting through the show, how clean it was – taking all the compliments, I didn’t want to drastically change too much of that,” Horning said.
Representatives of both the educational and business sides of gardening said they were pleased with the new version of the garden show.
Len Suchy, president of the Wichita Area Garden Council, said it used to disappoint him that garden clubs weren’t grouped together at the old garden show. So he’s happy they will be in their own space at the new show, along with Botanica. The Kansas Pond Society will have a water feature in the area, and the clubs will have information about their particular areas of gardening interest as well as about membership.
The seminars sponsored by the Extension Service also will be in that area, presented from an open stage rather than off the beaten path, as they were in the old show, in a room off the connecting lobby of Century II.
Extension agent Bob Neier said he was pleasantly surprised by that change last year.
The seminars “were out in the open where people could see them. There was a large projector and a good sound system,” Neier said. “It worked very well for us. Attendance was better than it had been before, and we’d been very pleased before.
“It was a good show last year. I think vendors and customers were pleased to have the opportunity to have the show.”
Stone Creek Nursery of Hesston and El Dorado used to stage elaborate gardens, including a miniature golf course and a plant factory, at the old garden show. But by the end of that show’s run, Stone Creek could no longer afford the grand projects, owner Kirby Martin said. In the second year of the new show, Stone Creek is going in the opposite direction, increasing its presence.
“I like the format a lot better than the way it used to be,” Martin said of the new show. “It’s easier to do, especially with us being out of town. I like the way it’s laid out. It’s a little more realistic – anybody can do the stuff we’ve got down there.”
Stone Creek’s display will include pergolas, arbors and a gazebo made of reclaimed wood by a master carpenter, and a 14-foot fountain.
“Our big thing is we like to reclaim things and show people they don’t have to spend a lot to garden,” said Stone Creek designer Larry Rogers. He’ll be presenting a seminar on trash-to-treasure planters at the show at 4 p.m. March 2.
Ticket prices to the show will be the same as last year: $9 for adults, $8 for seniors, $4 for children ages 5 to 12 and free for kids 4 or younger. Free parking and shuttle service will be available at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. The first 300 people through the door will get a free foam kneeling pad.
Horning said he has seen his own growth in gardening since his experience first putting on the show last year. He went from not knowing what a pergola is to “going completely nuts in my yard” last summer, he said. He wants to share his personal story with others coming to the Outdoor Living and Landscape Show about how they can translate what they see and hear to their own yards. Once he’s done with the 2013 show, his next project is getting a water feature installed at home.