Fair’s flower show theme: Flowers by the Book

AUGUSTA. The decor of the show will feature ‘little libraries’ filled with gardening books for fair attendees to peruse.

| 02 May 2024 | 11:26

“Flowers by the Book” will be the theme of the Flower Show at the New Jersey State Fair/Sussex County Farm & Horse Show, which will be Aug. 2-10 at the fairgrounds in Augusta.

“The theme was chosen by the Flower Show Committee members,” said committee member April Fisher. “All of the committee members are Rutgers Master Gardeners who have personal libraries of gardening books.

“It seemed to be a great idea to showcase the connection between gardening and gardening how-to books. The decor of the show this year will even feature ‘little libraries’ filled with gardening books for fair attendees to peruse.”

Fisher entered the Flower Show competition as an amateur 12 years ago and a few years ago joined the committee.

“All of us on the committee are determined that the gardeners of Sussex County be able to showcase their gardening and artistic skills by entering the competition and then being acknowledged with a ribbon and a perhaps even a cash award for their efforts,” she said.

“The Flower Show is the only event that celebrates gardening in Sussex County. We are exceptionally proud of the show we present each August.”

Director since 2010

Karen Opilla, director of the Flower Show, became a Master Gardener in 2008. She retired from a job in the business world and ran a community supported agriculture (CSA) program for 12 years. She now runs Willow Brook Farm in Branchville.

“I originally volunteered at Founder’s Park at the New Jersey State Fair in order to fulfill required volunteer hours of the Master Gardener program,” she said. “However, after learning about the Flower Show, I changed my volunteer hours and became a standing member.”

After the resignation of flower show director Ann Bain, she became the director in 2010.

“Our committee members are all well-experienced in the many aspects of amateur and professional outreach, coordination and on-site display - helping to make the Flower Show a highlight for the fair each year,” Opilla said.

“The Flower Show showcases local talent and creativity to the many thousands of attendees of the fair each year. In addition to the featured displays of the Flower Show and its competition aspect, it provides the opportunity for other service groups, such as Rutgers Extension Service and Sussex County Community College, to promote their services to the community.”

“We are fortunate to have knowledgeable, professional judges that return each year” for the professional horticulture and artistic divisions, she said. Master Gardeners judge the amateur entries.

Fisher said flowers are grown by exhibitors for the horticulture division. Exhibitors may purchase flowers for the artistic floral arrangements unless “homegrown” ones are required.

Joan Smith, the fair’s president, said the Flower Show has been held since 1952 and maybe earlier.

A book by Wayne McCabe, a former Sussex County historian, says the old schoolhouse in Branchville housed many exhibits, including the vegetable, art, photography and flower show.

“I remember seeing the flower show in the ’60s and ’70s, when I was a child,” Smith said. “You had to go over a footbridge to get to the school from the fairgrounds in Branchville.”

• For rules and to how to enter the amateur division, go online to sussexcountyfairgrounds.org/assets/resources/32124%20edits%20Amateur%20Rules%20&%20Regs%20(1).pdf
• For rules and how to enter the professional division, go to sussexcountyfairgrounds.org/assets/resources/32124%20edits%20Professional%20Rules%20copy-2.pdf