Just returned from the Ohio Floral Association short course in Columbus, Ohio and had a wonderful trip! The conference and trade show were fantastic and very well organized. The event planners thought of every detail from reasonably priced and healthy food to shuttle service to bag storage. The hotel was beautiful and all the people of Columbus were friendly and helpful. I would like to take a group horticulture students to the show next year so this was a ‘dry run’ to get a handle on the event. I brought my 14 year old daughter along for the trip since her father was out of town and I did not want her to have to stay home alone. Besides it was a chance for us to pal around and for her to experience an international conference and business trip. I feel very fortunate that she was eager to go with me and we travelled well together. I couldn’t have asked for a better travelling companion! We were going to drive to Columbus but at the last minute chose to fly. It would have taken seven hours or so to drive there so would have cost us two days travel time. We stayed at the Rennnaissance Marriot hotel in downtown Colubis which had recently been renovated and was beautiful! Our room on the 11th floor was beautiful and comfortable and cool. A rooftop pool on the fourth floor was available but we only went up there once. We left the hotel and went to a nearby farmers market for lunch and ice cream in the afternoon.
We got up early on Saturday for the garden center bus tour. While the bus tour was well organized and good I would not do this again next year. The tour started at 7:30 and we did not get back to the convention center until 5pm. In the meantime I missed several speakers that I would have liked to have heard. I mistakenly thought these speakers would present again another day but that was not the case. There were so many speakers over the four days that it would have been impossible to get very far anyway. I will try to purchase a CD and online access to the speakers which is available for $199 to OFA members. This will allow me to hear each speaker at my own pace and I’m sure I can also use the information in classes with students. I can also catalog the CD in our library so anyone interested will have access.
We had a very nice dinner that night at a fancy restaurant but unfortunately the next day I woke up sick as a dog (I think it was some bad salmon). I laid in bed (and in the bathroom) until about 1pm when I finally began to feel better. I had again missed almost a whole day of speakers and events but managed to get myself over to the convention center for a tour of about 1/3 of the huge trade show in about the next 3 hours. Since it was Sunday most of downtown Columbus was shut down and it wa slike a ghost town. I came back about 5pm and we went to an area called ‘North Shore’ for dinner which is a very cool public market. This is a great place to get ethnic and inexpensive food, baked goods and souvenirs. I had some tasty Thai soup and Amanda a pizza slice (of course). Later we ordered room service as we watched a movie and relaxed. The prices were actually pretty reasonable for a hamburger and an excellent turkey club.
Monday morning we got up and headed over to North Shore for breafast but most all of it was closed on Monday. We managed to find a coffee shop before heading over to the convention center 2 blocks away. There is a large food court in the convention center where we could have had a full breakfast or just a smoothie. We spent the day visiting the rest of the huge trade show and saw many wonderful plants and horticulture products. We spoke with a variety of vendors from beneficial insects to potting machines to waterproof paper. The displays were filled with beautiful plants and I was able to see many new plants I would like to order for spring. Just as I was saying to Amanda that I had not seen one person I know even though I have been a horticulturist for thirty years now, along comes Linda Hewitt, a succesful alumni from Craig Bergmann Design and a member of our advisory board. She is such a delight and I managed to catch a great photo of her relaxing with a smoothie!
We caught a taxi back to the airport for our 6pm flight Monday night. In future years I would stay later on Monday to visit Ohio State University and the trial garden tour. Linda told me it is a great event showcasing their display and trial gardens as well as some fabulous container gardens. Wine and cheese is served and it is a great opportunity to relax and mingle with othe professionals in a beautiful setting. So sorry to have missed this one!
I think its important for Gateway horticulture students to attend this show as many of them have never been to a professional conference or travelled on business. It would be a great experience for them to keep track of all those reciepts, dress and act appropriately, meet professionals and experience the international aspect of horticulture. Our students would get a much expanded definition of horticulture and all the different career possibilities available to them. Horticulture is much more than ‘Green Side Up’ and working at Milaegers! It certainly would be an excellent opportunity for students to network with professional hortculturists. Gateway like to see students compete at these events so i was looking for student activities. I would have liked to have seen more student focused events or competitons but I did find a few. The PLANET organization was giving certification exams and the AIFD group had a design competition; students could particpate in both these activities.. There also was a merchandising contest that sounded interesting where groups set up garden center type displays for judging. All in all it was great event and I’m glad Gateway offered me the opportunity to go. I only hope it isn’t my first, and last, time going!