Coronado Flower Show
A FLORAL TRADITION THAT UNITES A TOWN
By Meridith Metzger
For nine decades, our history in the island community of Coronado has followed its spring tradition of refurbishing gardens throughout the town and staging Southern California’s premier flower show.
The annual Coronado Flower Show for 2018 will be held April 21-22, celebrating ninety-two years as a community-loved event. All residents, young and old, are encouraged to participate in a friendly competition by showcasing their home front gardens and joining San Diego exhibitors in the well-known flower show.
As with most traditions, the Coronado Flower Show began with a simple idea. Way back in 1922, Coronado was suffering the effects of a political battle between business factions and many residents had taken sides. A feud was in full swing over development issues between the famous Spreckels family and Wilmot Grifiss, the Vice-President of Coronado’s local bank. The town’s local paper helped fuel the hotly debated arguments raging through the community and even printed personal attacks on the Spreckels family. The political atmosphere had seriously strained neighborly relations.
Coronado historians credit Maude Taylor with developing the idea of hosting a community flower show to unite her feuding neighbors. She succeeded in convincing her husband, Harold Taylor, to take on the project. He ran the flower show from its introduction in 1922 and served as the Coronado Floral Association president for the next ten years.
Today, hotly debated political issues are still a colorful part of the Coronado community. Arguments for and against such issues as building a Fourth Street tunnel to the North Island Naval Air Station; the development of peripheral roads to reduce traffic congestion away from the center of the village; and a myriad of building code restrictions regarding residential and commercial construction continue to create plenty of fodder for neighborly discourse.
Yet Coronado, which is affectionately known as the Crown City, is again ready to set aside any community differences and celebrate its 90th annual flower show. The event has been held in its large, tree-shaded public park since 1922. The show, which began at a cost of ten dollars, has grown to become the largest tented flower show in the nation and is sponsored by the Coronado Floral Association in conjunction with the City of Coronado.
Visitors in the 1920s were admitted free, but by 1932 the cost of admission had soared to a whopping ten cents, undoubtedly to offset the costs of a new tent enclosure to house the ever-growing show. A parade, complete with floats and bands, was added the following year and was led by the Coronado Rotary Club, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the American Legion. By 1937, what would become a favorite section of the show, the wildflower exhibit, was introduced and remains today an impressive collection of cut wildflowers indigenous to Southern California.
The Coronado Flower Show is definitely a slice of Americana. In its early years, it was sustained solely by donations from the private sector. Coronado schools loaned desks and typewriters; the Hotel del Coronado provided trellises and tables; and even the local Boy Scout troops camped in the park to provide security on the weekend of the show. During WWII the flower show was not held for three years between 1943 and 1946, due to national defense efforts, but the popular event resumed in full force in spring of 1946.
Today’s show provides opportunities for exhibitors throughout San Diego County to showcase roses, floral arrangements, and plants. It even includes a children’s section for exhibition of floral arrangements, seed plate designs, and the popular Zoo’s Who section of whimsical creations assembled from fruits and vegetables.
Exhibitors participate in a wide selection of flower-related divisions. These include themed design arrangements of cut flowers exhibited in shadow boxes, a miniature arrangement section, a tabletop design section including formal and informal table settings, holiday theme tents, and numerous other classical floral designs exhibits.
The show also includes sections for cut roses, orchids, hanging plants, cactus and bonsai, and booths on garden cultivating and recycling. A men’s section provides a chance for political satire in a comical blend of floral creation and commentary.
Flower Show Schedules may be picked up from the Coronado City Hall, Coronado Library at 640 Orange Avenue and the Chamber of Commerce at 1125 10th St.
The two-day event in April follows a community-wide home front judging where residents and businesses throughout Coronado groom gardens and plant flowers in order to showcase their properties. Every home, business, and church is judged and winners are presented with 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place ribbons, as well as Honorable Mention ribbons. The top ten properties are awarded special distinction ribbons.