The last time a flower show was held on Portland’s waterfront in 2015, about 9,000 visitors attended. So when the Maine Landscape & Nursery Association took over management of the 2017 show and moved it to Thompson’s Point, organizers tried to keep their expectations in check.
But Don Sproul, the association’s executive director who produced the 2017 Maine Flower Show, said Sunday evening that the final attendance figures for the Thompson’s Point venue surprised his group.
“We probably lost 4,000 people due to the weather on Saturday. If they had been able to come, we probably would have exceeded 20,000,” Sproul said.
Sproul said 16,132 people attended the five-day Maine Flower Show, which started Wednesday evening with its exclusive premiere night – when all proceeds benefited the Good Shepherd Food Bank – and ended Sunday at 5 p.m.
“We are ecstatic. Everyone wants to come back next year,” Sproul said. “We will be back next year, in the same place.”
Phineas Sprague Jr. and Portland Yacht Services put on the Portland Flower Show for 18 years. It was traditionally held each March in a group of old, brick warehouses – the historic Portland Co. complex – on Fore Street at the foot of Munjoy Hill.
But Sprague sold the property and the 2016 show was canceled to allow organizers more time to rethink and revamp the event.
Then in May 2016, the Maine Landscape & Nursery Association announced that it would create its own annual event in 2017 – the Maine Flower Show. Sproul told the Press Herald last year that members worried the Portland Flower Show was not attracting as many visitors as it once had and was not focused enough on garden and yard work.
This year’s show featured 16 gardens and 100 exhibitors. Sproul said it was the first time that the developers of Thompson’s Point had allowed an event in Brick South, a historic building that is a former railroad warehouse.
“It’s a beautiful facility,” Sproul said.
Commenters on Facebook seemed to support Sproul’s assessment.
“It was inspiring to see all the beautiful exhibits. It’s an annual stop for me and this building was a good move. It flowed well,” one woman wrote.
“Great job with this show everyone. It was a joy to walk through,” another woman wrote. “The exhibits were great. Much better than the old show, much better location. Nice work!!”
Saturday’s snowstorm reduced attendance to about 2,100, but the show was jammed Sunday. More than 6,000 people came and Sproul said he had to call in extra shuttle buses to transport visitors.
“The crowd we had today is what we should have had on Saturday if the weather had been better,” Sproul said Sunday.
From a financial perspective, Sproul said he won’t know for another week or so – after all the show’s expenses have been paid – whether it made a profit. He said if a profit was made, it probably won’t be significant. The show’s operating budget was about $270,000.
Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: