The Fillmore Flower Show
Maypole at the Grammar School c 1912
Fillmore gardens and hillsides consistently explode with blossoms in the spring. For over one hundred years the people of Fillmore have shown their delight in this floral bounty by putting on a flower show. The show has gone through a variety of forms reflecting what was going on in the community and the broader world. The location changed and the themes changed. The 100th year for this event took place in 2014. It has been held nearly every one of those 100 years and was only paused from 1939 to 1945 due to the world war and during a period when there was a lack of leadership due to the age of its membership. In 1987 it was canceled because of a freeze, and most recently in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. With great delight our local gardeners look forward to the reemergence of the 2022 Flower Show this month.
Newspaper clippings from 1913 describe a contest amongst the local elementary schools. “A framed print of George Washington was to be awarded to the school with the best display of wild flowers at the annual May Day festival. The picture was awarded to San Cayetano School in 1913.” (The first San Cayetano School, not the San Cayetano School that we know today.) It later went to Fillmore Grammar School and Sespe Elementary. The Washington print is now on display in the Fillmore Historical Museum. The early shows were held on May Day and featured a May Pole Dance and relay races for children.
Based on records kept by the Garden Club and clippings from the newspaper it appears that the first formal show was in 1919. In May of 1922 flowers were abundant again “One (part) of the May Day celebration that commanded universal admiration…..was the beautiful Floral Exhibit at the high school grounds. This was staged in one corner of the cement paved tennis court.” In 1937 the flower show was held in the building that would later become Briggs’ Hardware. Pictures show rows of flowers in tall vases lining the walls from front to back.
1937 Flower Show
In 1928 the Fillmore Spring Flower Festival was held in early May. It was held under “the joint auspices of the Veterans’ Service Club, the Fillmore Merchants’ Association, and the Chamber of Commerce……to inject zest and enthusiasm into the social and business intercourse of the community.” It was a full day of activities beginning at 10:00 AM with the show open for public viewing. In the afternoon there were children’s sports and a baseball game. In the evening there was a program at the high school and flowers exhibited were auctioned off with the proceeds going to the sick relief fund of the service club. This took place just weeks before the 1928 St. Francis Dam disaster.
After WW II, sponsored by the Fillmore Garden Club, the Flower Show grew and was moved to the Veterans’ Memorial Building. Dahlias were the specialty of the first show. Through the years a wide variety of flowers has been shown such as dahlias, camellias, lilies, and of course roses. At times certain flowers were banned. One year it was sunflowers and another times it was morning glories and bleeding hearts. There were silver bowl trophies for adults and cash prizes for school children. In 1972 visitors voted for best arrangement and a special Judges’ award was given to the Fillmore Insectary for its display on beneficial insects. Each year at the conclusion of the Flower Show, prizes are awarded and the winners of raffles and silent auctions are announced. There is great anticipation waiting to hear which entry won the coveted Best of Show Award.
Judy Dunst and Donovan Main
Through the 1970s the Fillmore Garden Club sponsored the Flower Show providing the planning and man power to keep it going. The tables, vases, display shelves, and extra ribbons always found a safe home in the barns of local ranchers. The King and King Ranch has made storage room for all of the Garden Show necessities for years. The Garden Club also held plant sales, auctions, and asked for donations to fund the show. Annual costs continue to rise but admission for viewing the show is always free. Lately there has been a five dollar entry fee for adult exhibitors. Youths residing within the Fillmore Unified School District boundaries may exhibit for free.
1973 Flower Show in the Memorial Building
In 1982 the club held a theme contest among local students and chose the winner from 50 selections. The chosen theme “Holiday with Flowers” was the winning entry. During the yearly event many citizens assist as host and hostesses, local musicians provide entertainment, refreshments are provided, and generous members donate plants for a plant sale. A 1982 news story highlighted what a community affair the show was by noting that the Fillmore Future Farmers Chamber of Commerce, and Jaycees would assist with physical work of setting up display tables and hanging plant stands as well as taking it down at the end of the show. In addition, the Chamber of Commerce had generously donated monetary help to assist with expenses of the show. Local businesses and organizations regularly and enthusiastically supported the show with donations and prizes for the silent auction. This still is happening today.
Joann King with Laurie Hopkins drawing prizes, 1986
Following the 1994 Northridge Earthquake, the city started the Vision 2020 project to provide improvements and beautification. At the outset the community was polled to gather ideas for what citizens would like the city of Fillmore to be like in 2020. At that time several committees were formed including the Civic Pride Committee. It began working on projects around the city that included the Garden of the Month awards for beautiful landscaping, the care of the downtown planters and flower pots, and the sponsorship of the Flower Show. Linda Nunes the chairperson contacted Conway Spitler, Wilma Allen, and Joanne King about restarting the flower show. In 2009 after an 11 year break the revived Fillmore Flower Show began.
An appeal to the community asked for help with a search for lost equipment and signs. To create interest in the show workshops on flower arranging and rose pruning were held in various locations for youth and at community meetings. The show was held in the Senior Center on Santa Clara Street. Judges Sue Diller and Barbara Scheider from the Ventura county fair share their expertise and say that the Fillmore Flower Show is their favorite. In 2014 the Flower Show celebrated its 100th year with the usual gorgeous display of flowers and the theme “100 Years of Flowers.” Many arrangements reflected the theme with vintage vases, photos, and old fashion blooms. Hostesses even wore vintage outfits in a nod to the special year.
2016 Flower Show Co-chair Joanne King & Linda Nunes
In 2020 the Active Adult Center was reserved, the judges were contacted, brochures were printed and the committee had many of the plans in place for the next show. Unfortunately, Covid 19 had other plans and the Flower Show was canceled in both in 2020 and 2021. 2022 sees the Civic Pride Committee back in action and actively planning on an even better show with the theme “Farie Tales and Flowers” on April 9th and 10th. With this year’s early rains there should be an abundance of spectacular blooms to delight everyone.