Jeff Heuchert email@example.com
Green thumbs looking to get a head start on spring at this past weekend's Stratford Garden Festival had to wait a little bit longer than they would have liked.
Thursday's unexpected snow squalls, which forced closed Perth County roads and all highways into Stratford for most of the day, led to a quiet first day at the always popular event, which serves as the major fundraiser for the Lung Association.
Several vendors were unable to get into Stratford in time for opening, and Lung Association area manager, Deedee Herman, said she spoke with several out-of-town visitors who tried to attend but ended up sitting in their car for a few hours instead.
"We learned there's nothing we can do about Mother Nature," Herman noted with a smile on Saturday, as crowds of people made their way into the Rotary Complex. "But you know what? Everyone was ready to go on Friday."
It seems the bad weather only served to reinforce in people's minds just how much they're looking forward to the warmer days ahead. Attendance, despite the dip on day one, was still expected to reach close to 9,000 by the time the festival wrapped up Sunday.
All the vendors who couldn't make it on Thursday showed up for the remainder of the event. People lined up to get inside, and at least two communities organized bus trips. The opening night Garden Party, with live music, food, and a live auction, also attracted a large mostly local audience.
"I think it shows we're all ready for the spring," Herman laughed.
Herman said she was especially pleased with the variety of this year's display gardens. The 10 gardens were complemented by a marketplace with 41 vendors selling seed, plants and flowers, garden tools and accessories, garden art, and more. The speaker series stretched over all four days and included over 20 experts, whose presentations covered everything from seasonal flower arranging to plants you can grow for your own health to the pleasures of a hobby greenhouse.
Organizers anticipated the festival would bring in between $55,000 and $60,000 for Lung Association health initiatives and research, supporting the one in five Ontarians living with some kind of breathing problem.