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Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Flower Displays are a Fair Favorite:
A splash of color: Flower displays attract visitors at Wyoming County Fair

PIKE — The flower department is in full bloom at the Wyoming County Fair. And, as always, it’s more than popular.

“People come in and that’s what they look for,” said Donna Gloff with a smile. Gloff has the expertise to know — she has decades of experience with the fair and flowers. Gloff got involved in the fair in the 1980s because she saw that the fair was closing the department. She stepped forward with a handful of other women to keep it going.

Top photo: Larry Burton and Barbara Ackley of Dansville look at the flower displays Monday afternoon. Bottom photo: A Volkswagen bus flower display by Karen George of Bliss was among the entries Monday at the Wyoming County Fair.  Courtesy of Mark Gutman, Daily News, Batavia

Donna Gloff has been the superintendent of the Flower Department for 38 years. Gloff works at Ash-Lin’s Elegant Rose in Warsaw and has loved flowers for as long as she can remember. Her favorite flower is a dahlia. She has five raised beds with over 180 flowers. She finds the process rewarding and loves to see the variety of colors she may grow.

She is always happy to volunteer at the fair because she loves the enjoyment she sees from others when they walk through the flowers.

“I am rewarded for my work,” she said. “It’s a lot of work but it’s worth it.”

Although she’s the department’s superintendent, Gloff herself does not judge the flowers. Four judges work in teams of two and cover the array of entries. The children’s entries, for kids 12 and under, are judged separately from other entries.

When judging, Gloff said that the flowers are inspected by their size, and for whether or not they have insect holes. The arrangements are then also judged on their relation to their selected theme and their presentation in the container. The presentation reflects the uniform sizes of each flower, the height of the flowers, and their colors.

Gloff said that some people have told her that they’re afraid of arrangements and she thinks people shouldn’t be, because it’s all about interpretation and creativity. The flowers are arranged from the annuals and the perennials, with categories for dahlias, bulbs, gladiolus, garden plants, and houseplants. For some pieces the colors of the flowers can be the difference between whether someone gets best in show or not.

The Flowers Department has changed things throughout the years to draw people in, Gloff said. One of the things she pointed out is that they change themes for their flower arrangements each year. A few of this year’s themes are Arizona Wild Flowers, Magically Dun, and Taboo, and along with “The Wyoming County Fair Salutes a Century of 4-H.”

Weather also affects flowers and people’s gardens can look different year to year.

“I have whatever I have but I won’t know until I go out to look,” Gloff said with a laugh when it comes to her flowers each year.

Gloff enjoys the diversity seen in her garden each year and enjoys seeing the diversity in colors at the fair. She hopes that people will continue to come back each year with their flowers and loves to see kids get involved.

The flower department received 248 entries on Saturday and will have a second round of judging on Wednesday for new entries.

Another portion of the flower department is the Western New York Gladiolus Society, which has been involved in the Wyoming County Fair for more than 20 years. A way that kids have gotten involved is through the Gladiolus Society’s 4-H Youth Program. The program has over 60 children from 5 to 19. The Gladiolus Society teaches kids the process of planting ‘glads’ and to appreciate the beauty of the flowers, said John Stenson, of Warsaw. Stenson said that the 4-H program tends to connect kids to their parents and grandparents in a great way.

“There’s something about growing a ‘glad’ to give to your grandparents,” said Stenson.

The Gladiolus Society also offers a scholarship to kids who are attending a two- or four-year college. If a youth needs five certificates after at least five years in 4-H to be eligible. They have been able to offer 16 scholarships over the years to youth in Wyoming and Erie counties.

Norma Spencer, of Perry, has been in the WNY Gladiolus Society for over 30 years and she loves to see the 4-H projects that come in each year.

Stenson has been involved in the WNY Gladiolus Society for 15 years and his favorite part of being at the Wyoming County fair is watching kids as they bring in their flowers and the pride, he sees in them. “I have the best time in the world seeing the kids’ faces,” Stenson said.

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