BANGOR, Maine — After a one-year hiatus, one of the region’s sure signs of spring will blossom again in 2010.
The city’s annual garden show, which was not held last year for financial reasons and after a drop in attendance in 2008, is scheduled to run from Friday, April 23, to Sunday, April 25. There will be major changes to the show that had appeared for 18 years before its hiatus in 2009.
One of those changes will be to the show’s name. It now will be called Bangor’s Garden Show instead of the Bangor Garden Show, Bass Park director Mike Dyer said Friday.
The organization of the show, handled in previous years by the now defunct civic group Keep Bangor Beautiful, now will be handled in-house. The RV and boat shows at the Bass Park complex are operated in a similar fashion.
Dyer presented the garden show plan to the city’s business and economic development committee earlier this week with a rough budget of $53,000 in costs and about $66,000 in revenue.
Revenue numbers are based on estimates that include an attendance of 7,500 over three days, $3,500 in sponsorships, and 45-60 vendor booths at $350 each.
Adult admission will be $5 this year, a reduction from the $10 admission charge in 2008. Children under age 12 will be admitted free when accompanied by an adult, and a $10 three-day pass will be available in advance. Passes go on sale after Feb. 15.
“We’re very confident that it’s going to be a full show, and everybody is extremely enthusiastic, as was the business and economic development committee of the City Council,” Dyer said.
This year’s garden show will be held entirely in the Bangor Auditorium. The show will be open 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.
The garden show typically was held in early April as a fundraiser for Keep Bangor Beautiful, a nonprofit organization that was responsible for litter and graffiti cleanup in the city.
In a January 2009 Bangor Daily News story, the organization’s president said a dramatic increase in costs for the show over the previous three years and a decline in attendance from 15,000 more than 10 years ago to 7,286 in 2008 meant Keep Bangor Beautiful’s net profit was just $19,000.
The organization struggled to cover its yearly staffing and graffiti and litter cleanup expenses on the garden show profits, and the decision then was made to take the hiatus.
Although Keep Bangor Beautiful no longer exists, Dyer said, interest in the show didn’t wane, and he fielded calls all year from people wanting to know whether the garden show would return in 2010.
“We knew we had to do something, and it was a matter of working through the details,” he said. “Our interest is not to just do it for one year and forget about it. That’s why we decided to bring it back to its roots, lowered admission … and streamlined the show in some ways.”
To do that, Dyer turned to someone who had been around the garden show since the beginning — Judi Perkins, who helped found the show years ago when she was Keep Bangor Beautiful’s executive director.
“We’re very excited about this, and it’s amazing to me, with the short turnaround time that we have and the economy being what it is at the time, that there’s already been so much interest,” Perkins said.
The original version of the show was held entirely in the Bangor Auditorium facility. In later years it spread to other areas of the building, including the Bangor Civic Center and hallways that link the civic center to the auditorium.
The hallways usually held educational displays designed for adults and schoolchildren.
This year, all vendors and landscape displays will be contained inside the auditorium.
How landscaping companies, whose often lush and colorful creations on the auditorium floor are the main draw of the show, will be paid is another big change, Dyer said. In previous years Keep Bangor Beautiful paid landscaping companies a sum of money per square foot for their displays. That meant the larger the display the more money a company was paid. In 2008, the total paid out was $16,000.
This year, the landscaping companies will not be paid per square foot. Instead, each company will be limited to the same size plot, likely 400 square feet or less, on the auditorium floor. The show will award prizes in categories such as Best in Show and People’s Choice. Dyer said each display likely will win some sort of prize with top honors garnering around $5,000.
“The idea going forward is to create a little bit of competition and a little more of a desire to excel and outdo themselves from year to year,” Dyer said. “The hope is that they will spend a lot more time on plant material and less on filling with sod.”
To determine the interest level among local landscaping companies and possible vendors, Dyer and Perkins made calls to companies that had participated in previous years. Nine landscaping companies are now interested in six sites, so Dyer said some of the companies might team up to create a landscape design. Perkins said there would not be a theme for the landscapes this year.
Perkins said the show has received booth commitments from 35 vendors.
“This will be much more of a [limited] vendor pool,” said Dyer. “Basically, it will be people selling products or services directly related to gardening, as opposed to people who are interested in buying a booth because they’ll have 10,000 people walk by it.”
Perkins and Dyer are still working to organize the show on short notice, but they’re both glad to see it return even in a condensed form.
“We’re just thrilled to see the [winter] season end with the garden show coming back,” Perkins said. “People have been through a lot in the last year [in the recession], and I think the show will bring a breath of fresh air.”
For information about Bangor’s Garden Show, call 947-5555