After hosting its annual Home & Garden show at the Pine Bluff Convention Center for more than 25 years, the Master Gardeners of Jefferson County moved their biggest fundraising event to Hestand Stadium for the first time this year. And that change doesn’t include the two-year hiatus the show suffered due to covid.
“We’re just trying to build our presence,” said Linda Power, event chair. “At least we are not businessmen who lost their business due to covid-19. We’re just lucky to be able to do something. The change of venue was huge for the organizers. But the cost of using the facilities at Hestand Stadium instead of the convention center was considerable, and since the event is a fundraiser, the expense savings contribute to the bottom line, Power said.
“A person came up to me and said there was no amount of lipstick that could turn He-stand Stadium into a convention center,” Power said with a laugh. “But I said, ‘Look, we’re gardeners. We dig into the earth. “” Power said she appreciated the warm reception the Master Gardener band received from Hestand Stadium, noting that officials had a work crew on Monday, steam-cleaning the venue to get it ready for the show.
By noon on Friday, visitors flocked to visit vendors and buy plants and other home and garden items. The offices of the Jefferson County Assessor and Collector had booths. Next to them was a nursery selling more plants. And opposite was an insurance agent ready to talk shop.
At the Three Rivers Audubon Society table, volunteers had concocted a peanut butter glop designed to be slathered on pinecones, rolled in birdseed, and hung from a tree branch for her feathered friends.
When asked if the concoction was worthy of a sandwich, member Richard Berry replied “only if you’re desperate”. Power said it was pleased with the attendance of vendors, although the 25-30 who showed up this year was a far cry from the 58 who rented a booth in 2019, the last year the event took place.
“We thought, well, maybe we can do half of what we did two years ago, and we did,” she said. “We really didn’t know what to expect. Since we didn’t have a show for two years, we relied on smaller plant sales, but our bank account dwindled. Proceeds from the show help fund the Cooperative Extension Service Demonstration Garden, which produces fresh produce for Neighbor to Neighbor, CASA Women’s Shelter and the Salvation Army.
This year, in the demonstration garden, there is a covered “hoop house” which allows gardeners to start planting early. Some of the items started in the house are for sale at the show, along with items grown by Roger Area, who oversees a community garden and greenhouse at First United Methodist Church.
Area, a master gardener, had come to the show with 80 tomato plants that were a foot and a half tall, already had flowers, and were for sale for $4 each.
“These were started in January from seed,” he said. “They are preparing. They may not be ripe by Easter, but it will be near. Nearby was Linda Stolzer of Little Rock buying plants.
As names were exchanged, Stolzer was asked if the person next to her was her husband, and she was quick to respond.
“Not yet,” she said with a smile.
Stolzer’s friend Paul Pilkington, also of Little Rock, is a master gardener, and he had read about the event in The Pine Bluff Commercial as well as in the newsletters master gardeners receive and suggested they both come down to check. the event.
Nicholas Romano, an associate professor of aquaculture at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, was lining up to buy some of Area’s tomato plants.
Romano has worked on several research projects involving the use of manure – or excrement – from black soldier fly larvae. He said the results have been promising with the sweet potato cuttings, and he said he’s been buying tomato, lemon basil and peppermint plants from the home and garden show to see how the droppings work. on them.
Today’s events, which run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., include a 10 a.m. session by UAPB’s Professor Yong Park, who will speak about honey bees; a 1 p.m. talk on making rain barrels by Lee Anderson; and a 2:30 p.m. lecture on the benefits of butterflies by Karen Smith.