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Maymont Show Hangs in Limbo

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That's the word from Maymont on the status of its annual signature event, which is — or was — slated to take place Feb. 22-25, 2007, at the Greater Richmond Convention Center.

"I can't say right now whether there will or won't be a flower and garden show," says Carla Murray, assistant director of public relations and marketing for the Maymont Foundation. "It's something huge and it's definitely being considered," she adds of what the foundation's options for finding another producer may be.

For 17 years the show has been one of the nonprofit's largest events in terms of scale and attendance. In February of this year, the event drew 14,000 people. If everyone paid $14 for tickets (some are comps), that's $196,000 in revenue.

The show has also served as a rite of passage of sorts, Richmond's unofficial kickoff to spring gardening.

Nature lovers began circulating e-mails last week wondering why details for the 2007 show weren't in the pipeline. A theme — such as last year's Valentine-inspired "Table for Two" — usually has been cemented by now, Murray says, along with Maymont's advertisements, which appear in national magazines.

But money is tight, and to put on the garden show requires considerable cash. Murray could not provide figures by press time on how much the event costs or how much it's profited or lost in recent years. She does say its returns have been dwindling.

And vendors, such as The Great Big Greenhouse, have taken notice. Doug Hensel, president of The Great Big Greenhouse, says his company spent between $20,000 and $30,000 on lavish displays for the show before it made "a business decision" to pull out in 2006. After 13 years spent as a primary vendor, it was no longer profitable to participate, he says. Still, he's optimistic that a large-scale, local, horticultural event might be "salvageable" somehow.

It may be a matter of proverbial pruning. 2006 has been a dicey year for Maymont. The weekend after its somewhat financially disappointing 17th annual garden show, the posthumously famous bears met their demise. Weeks later Maymont lost its longtime executive director, Geoffrey Platt.

Then there's competition from events that cater to similar crowds, such as The Richmond Antiques Spectacular, the Richmond Home & Garden Show and the Central Virginia Home & Better Living Show.

So the handwriting may have been on the garden wall. When asked when Maymont would make the final call on having the flower and garden show, Murray replies: "The pot is brewing. It's imminent. Hopefully by the end of the month." S



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