Tony Abruscato is the owner/director of the Chicago Flower & Garden Show and is also a great friend of BatesMeron. As the owner and director of the Midwest’s premier flower and gardening show, which can be traced back to 1847, Tony brings the beauty and excitement of spring to Navy Pier every year for thousands to enjoy.
I interviewed Tony as a part of our 6 Questions feature: a series of one-on-one interviews with people we work with who’ve made us proud. In addition to speaking with our clients to see how they’re rocking their brands, I also like to talk with them to see how their brand, their vision and their talents are inspiring others.
In this case, I spoke with Tony to learn what makes the Chicago Flower & Garden Show different than others, and why it’s worth taking a trip to Navy Pier to see this March 15-23rd.
1. This show isn’t just for show.
We don’t build the Chicago Flower & Garden Show every year to just showcase pretty flowers and get people out of the cold weather for a few hours. We build this show because we believe there is a gardener, explorer, designer, craftsman and nature lover in all of us. Yes, we love walking through the beautiful gardens, and of course getting out of this chilly Chicago winter is a plus, but every activity, presentation and display at the Chicago Flower & Garden Show, presented by Mariano’s, has a higher purpose—to inspire, educate and motivate.
We hope to inspire attendees from the moment they enter the massive show floor at Navy Pier. (And we hope the inspiration continues far beyond leaving.) For this reason every garden includes helpful tips attendees can take home and integrate into their own space. We also have a great Show Guide for attendees to take home that holds tips, images and contacts for gardeners, exhibitors and more. We want to make sure people leave feeling enriched and excited to start greening.
As part of our goal to educate, we have over 100 educational seminars and workshops hosted by industry pros covering a range of horticulture topics. From edibles to arrangements to the “Flowers of Downton Abbey,” our show is packed with free, daily presentations that anyone can join. This also includes hands-on, interactive classes that give attendees the opportunity to both learn and get their hands dirty. And our larger-than-life marketplace is designed to help motivate. Here, visitors can buy goods and equipment to start their own garden as soon as they get home!
2. The can’t-miss appearances and presentations on our Gardening Live stage.
Our fun and always changing Gardening Live stage gives attendees an up-close-and-personal opportunity to learn and interact with leading industry experts who are ready and excited to share tips, tricks and how-tos across a range of topics. This year our stage will be hosting more exciting, engaging and eventful presentations than ever before.
Some of our can’t-miss presentations include special presentations from John Gidding of HGTV’s hit show Curb Appeal on March 20th and March 21st and esteemed floral design instructor Deborah De La Flor on March 15th. (You can find more details about our Gardening Live presenters and events here.)
3. The food, chefs and opportunity to take home brilliant, green-inspired recipes.
Our Garden Gourmet stage is a must-see for anyone who loves food and/or cooking. We have over 25 chefs from top Chicago restaurants presenting culinary demonstrations everyday. This gives attendees the chance to try delicious dishes, to take home recipes and to learn how to incorporate fresh vegetables, fruits and other in-garden ingredients into your cooking creations.
We also have cakes! This year the Garden Gourmet stage will once again be host to the Regional Cake Decorating Finals of the Chicago Area Retail Bakers Association (CARBA). Master cake bakers and decorators will be on our stage, March 23, in a heated battle to move on to the National Finals.
4. You can bring home the beauty.
As I touched on before, our larger-than-life marketplace will be booming and bustling with great take-home products and produce. We have more than 100 marketplace exhibitors selling anything from seeds and bulbs to supplies and services. It’s a big space with lots to see, and we want to make sure that the “Do Good. Do Green” spirit doesn’t come to a frustrating end after leaving. Therefore, the marketplace has all the goods and equipment you need to start or enhance your own garden as soon as you get home! Our presenting sponsor, Mariano’s, will also be in the marketplace selling beautiful plants and fresh produce, which will be lively and full of helpful staff. (This fresh produce goes hand-in-hand with the new recipes attendees learned at the Garden Gourmet stage.)
5. This show isn’t just for gardeners.
A big misconception about flower and garden shows is that you have to be a gardener to enjoy them. That might be true for other shows, but the Chicago Flower & Garden Show is proud to stand apart and offer something for everyone.
We have an entire space dedicated to beautiful, artfully crafted tablescapes. These tables are put together by local designers and florists and offer unique style inspiration and how-tos in making your own dining room come alive with color, detail and accessories. All the tables are picturesque scenes that seem to be straight out of a home décor magazine, but they all feature obtainable pieces that anyone can bring home and incorporate into their style.
We also have a giant photography gallery that holds beautiful work entered from participants in our annual Horticulture Photography Competition. The gallery itself is a work of art, as it features a graffiti mural created by local artists. The photos within the gallery come from photographers of all ages and cover a range of categories. From live models to still life to landscape, the work entered and awarded is a sight you won’t want to miss.
6. Your husband, boyfriend or manfriend will have just as much fun as you.
Our show isn’t pink or blue, it’s green! Although we love our loyal lady following, we want to make sure that men aren’t missing out too. The Chicago Flower & Garden Show isn’t a bunch of people smelling roses and picking petals, it’s hands-on activities, life-size landscapes and backyard building at its finest. (After all, this isn’t your grandmother’s garden show.) We strive to ensure that all of our events and activities can be easily enjoyed by anyone, but we do have some extra highlights that might sway your husband or boyfriend into joining you at the show this year.
Our How-to Garden sponsored by Home Depot and Diet Coke has daily workshops and demonstrations that give you a chance to roll up your sleeves and get soil under your fingernails. Our feature gardens aren’t just gardens, they are massive, landscaping masterpieces that will inspire fire-pit patios, backyard barbecues and koi-filled ponds. And our educational seminars cover topics of all kind. For instance, speaker Mike Hines will specifically tackle the subject on March 16th with his seminar, “Men and Flowers: A Blooming Pair.”
Whether you’re sick of the snow or excited to add more green into your life, the Chicago Flower & Garden Show is the perfect way to welcome spring and experience something new. Buy your tickets here.
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