By Michael Giles
FEW events, very few as it turns out, can’t be beaten by the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.
One of them (hopefully) is the AstraZeneca jab.
Another is the Welshpool and District Horticultural Society’s Autumn Garden Show which has been held in the town’s delightful hall in consecutive years; flood, fire and famine notwithstanding, on 60 occasions.
Early in 2020, the eagerly anticipated annual show, one of the state’s best, slipped in ahead of the onslaught.
And at the weekend, the diamond jubilee celebrations went ahead too, bookending an annis horibilis, but not, according to society president Tom Reakes, without surviving many threats.
“The weekend was a huge success, all the more so because we thought we might not have it,” Mr Reakes said.
“But everyone was determined to go ahead with it if we could, it being our 60th consecutive autumn show and it turned out to be our best.”
A testament to the human spirit if ever there was one.
On Friday and again on Saturday, March 5 and 6, the venue was absolutely alive with colour and conversation, the show attracting easily the biggest-ever crowd, judging by the record number of raffle tickets sold, according to society secretary Fran Grylls.
“The season has been particularly kind to gardeners and that was certainly in evidence from the flowers and garden produce on show here,” Mr Reakes continued.
The dahlias, in particular, he said, were outstanding. Everyone said so, including the event’s special guests, President of the Royal Horticultural Society of Victoria, Don Rickerby, and his RHSV Secretary wife Jennifer.
They were on hand to present life memberships of the Welshpool and District Horticultural Society, and also RHSV John Pascoe Fawkner Medals to two stalwart workers of the local society, Rodney Grylls and Jessica Taylor.
For 40 years Mr Grylls has set up and dismantled the show and for the best part of the past 30 years, Mrs Taylor has run the plant stall, a vital contributor to the society’s finances.
Reluctant to accept any public acclaim for her efforts, Mrs Taylor wasn’t keen to stop work for a moment to even have her photo taken.
“I don’t like being in photos.”
But it’s there for posterity now.
According to show secretary Prue Fleming there were 650 exhibits from 54 exhibitors. Biggest show on record. A huge success.
Although no one from the first of the 60 autumn shows was on hand, or not that we know, the earliest life members of the local society, Arie Bos and Fran Grylls had a place of honour.
A veteran of well in excess of 50 shows, Arie spoke at the opening on Friday, after accepting the best bloom in show award for an Ian Thorpe Rose.
“I would have come for a look in the mid-60s and started exhibiting after that,” said Arie.
“It’s just going from strength to strength.”
The Welshpool society, drawing interest from around the district has 70 members, with three new members signing up at the show.
It’s events like the Welshpool Autumn Flower Show that make country life what it is… we’ll know things have changed for the worse if it ever stops it’s run.