Along the Garden Path: 65 years of Fair Flower Shows


The 161st annual Darke County Fair is here and time for the 65th year of Flower Shows.

We have a collection of fair books that date back to 1924 for the 69th annual Great Darke County Fair. This little book measures 6 inches long by 3.5 inches wide with 96 pages. It has no advertisements — just department information. We have several membership passes that date farther back than the 1924. Oh, if those passes could talk!

The flower department used to be in the present Fine Arts building when there were shelves around the building staging the different arrangements and horticulture exhibits. My first flower arrangement was entitled “Farm Animals” and it was in a yellow chicken container with red zinnias arranged in it. The entire arrangement was no taller than 6 or 8 inches. From the Fine Arts building the flower department moved to the northeast section of the basement of the coliseum. Before that, who remembers car dealerships and appliance stores in this area?

At one time educational programs were given “in front of bleachers and over a loud speaker system.” It was fun to sit on those bleachers and watch vendors slice and dice their vegetables or the chamois that cleaned those sparkling windows of your car. Added soon were programs on flowers, trees, and flower arranging.

In the earlier years the flower show schedule contained miniature arrangements, not over 3 inches total width and height. They had classes for arrangement of petunias, or arrangements in a tea pot, bottle, wooden bowl or colored glass container. Children under high school age could make an arrangement in toys. Horticulture consisted of zinnias, marigolds, china asters, each to have five individual blooms. They asked for one bloom in the Dahlias class and three spikes of gladiolus.

Local business supporters in the premium book were Duffy Hardware, Greenville National Bank, Martindale’s Restaurant, Producer’s Livestock Co-Operative Association, The Nestle Company, Citizens Bank, E & J Drive Inn with Bill Haworth, The Cul-Mor Tea Room on 4th Street, Sellman’s Hardware, Brateman’s Dress Shop, The Fashion Shop, Greenville Lumber Co., or Ballinger Lumber and Supply on Green Street. The Hamburger Shop, 49’er Drive-In on South 49 and 127. Gilbert Lease’ Greenville Tractor Sales, Inc., West Side Elevator, Fourman’s Men’s Shop, Hessler Linoleum and Tile and Frank Girbert, tractor and farm equipment. Ray Hansbarger and Son, Butter Top Bread and The Palace Department Store Co., Bailey Hardware in Ansonia. You could rent a tent from G. T. Wolf Tent Co. or stop by the Ohio Beverage Store on East Third Street and if needed, get a new pair of shoes for the fair at The Fashion Shoe Store on South Broadway.

Along the way, flower show committees added a theme title to each of the flower shows. Each artistic class has a title to arrange with the exhibitors’ own interpretation. The class height today is 45 inches not the 3 inches of years ago. New varieties of plant materials are added with trying to keep the public up on what’s new. The Junior’s are always coming up with interesting classes and outstanding horticulture.

The Flower Department is praised throughout the state of Ohio for its creativity and outstanding displays. It takes a talented group of people and energetic youth to stage a great show. The flower shows are Saturday and Wednesday with closed judging starting before noon and the area open after 3:00 p.m. to the public. We tear down at 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday to make way for a new show on Wednesday.

We extend an invitation to past and present garden club members or anyone who has promoted the department to stop by on Wednesday at 2:30 when we celebrate 65 years!

By Charlene Thornhill

Along the Garden Path

Charlene Thornhill is a volunteer citizen columnist, who serves The Daily Advocate readers weekly with her community column Along the Garden Path. She can be reached at [email protected]. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.

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