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The Philadelphia Flower Show 2021, COVID-Style

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Chief of Shows and Events for Philadelphia Flower Show, Sam Lemheney gives us an insider’s scoop on this year’s event.

Two things are new about the 2021 Philadelphia Flower Show. First off, it’s happening in the summer (June 5-13). Second, the show is outdoors for the first time in its 192-year history. Organizing the massive undertaking is West Chester’s Sam Lemheney. A Philadelphia Horticultural Society expert for 18 years, Lemheney has roots in Newtown Square Flower Shop, the store his father, Andrew, owned for more than 30 years.

Flower Show Owner

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MLT: Did your father’s shop inspire you to go into the flower business?

SL: Yes and no. Being in the retail flower world means the holidays are taken away, and I didn’t want that for my wife and kids. But I got my first taste of decorating events at my dad’s shop. Plus, I delivered a lot of flowers. So, I do feel I was born and raised for this job at the flower show.

MLT: Other than COVID restrictions, what were the challenges in organizing this year’s show?

SL: Electricity, water supply, space, weather—you name it, and it’s a challenge. In the planning stages, we thought about it a lot of different ways. Could we do a drive-thru experience? A virtual experience? We decided that the best way to experience the flower show is in person. The plants are the stars of the show, but it’s also about the people who put it together and the people who attend.

MLT: Any funny behind-the-scenes stories from past flower shows?

SL: “Springtime in Paris” was a great theme. We built an Eiffel Tower that grew out of the building. We worked with CAD drawings to build the set pieces, but when we were at the convention center erecting the Eiffel Tower, the top was misplaced. An air duct was in the way, and a union worker had to go up in a lift to push the air duct out of the way so we could set it up. It all worked out in the end.

MLT: What are your other favorite flower show themes?

SL: “Hawaii” was tremendous, because we had amazing plants and flowers, plus dancers, performers and a marketplace dedicated to Hawaiian products. “Explore America” was another wonderful theme. To celebrate the National Park Service’s 100th year, every exhibitor partnered with a national park and interpreted it. My wife and I take the kids to as many parks as possible. We’re going to Yellowstone this summer … after the flower show.