The Portland Flower Show, the first sign of spring for thousands of ardent Maine gardeners and flower fans, has been canceled for 2016 but is scheduled to be back in 2017.

Organizers say the show was canceled to allow time for a major rethinking and revamping of the event, which has been run by Portland Yacht Services for 18 years. The scope, size and location of the show all will be assessed.

“We don’t have anything nailed down for 2017 yet, but it will likely be a clean slate,” said Justina Marcisso of Portland Yacht Services. “After so many years you want to give the public a fresh look. There isn’t enough time in the calendar year to make the changes and plan the next show.”

The show is usually held in March.

Marcisso mentioned the show’s regular waterfront location, at the historic Portland Co. complex on Fore Street, as a factor. She said there are “limitations” to what can be done at the location since the show’s organizers no longer own the property. The new owners want to develop the site for a mix of business uses and residences, so its future is uncertain.

Portland Yacht Services’ owner Phineas Sprague sold the complex at 58 Fore St. in 2013 to CPB2. A condition of the sale was that CPB2 had to offer to rent the property to Portland Yacht Services for events annually held there, including the Portland Flower Show and the Maine Boatbuilders Show. The latter is scheduled to go on at the Fore Street complex in March.

CPB2 did offer the property for the show this year, but company officials were told the organizers were canceling, said Angie Helton, a spokesperson for CPB2.

Parking has long been a challenge at the show, with many people having to park some distance away and walk or take buses. Last year, the new owners charged a $20 parking fee during the flower show.

The show’s attendance, which dipped to 9,000 last year from 11,000 the year before, was not a factor in the cancellation, Marcisso said. The show draws 10,000 to 12,000 most years and lasts about four days. Tickets last year were $12 to $15.

After the show last March, organizers said they planned to hold the next show, as scheduled, in 2016. But this past October, organizers posted a brief announcement on the Portland Flower Show Facebook page.

“Some times, you’ve just gotta sit one out. The Portland Flower Show has decided to take 2016 off. Our decision is based solely on the desire to revamp our annual show, taking into account all of the feedback from our fans over the years, and what we actually truly desire to achieve as an event,” said the posting of Oct. 21, 2015. “We will return in 2017, stay tuned to our Facebook page as well as our website (currently under construction) for more information. And as always, thank you for your support.”

Nursery owners who have been involved with the show over the years said Friday that they didn’t know exactly why the show is being canceled. But they weren’t worried about it hurting their businesses. They said that appearing at the show, with their flowers and plants, is a marketing effort for them and they never expect a direct return.

“We’re not sure of the details, just that it’s a business decision. Obviously the complex has changed hands and that has to be considered,” said Tom Estabrook of Estabrook’s nursery in Yarmouth and Kennebunk, and president of the Maine Landscape & Nursery Association. “As an organization, we’re always looking for opportunities to market ourselves, beyond the show.”

Jeff O’Donal of O’Donal’s Nursery in Gorham believes the show will come back, in some form. Portland-area flower shows have been held for about 30 years, with other groups besides Portland Yacht Services running them from time to time. The show has had more than 100 vendors in a year, including landscape companies and nurseries, and more than a dozen garden exhibits, plus lectures and talks by experts in various areas of gardening.

“Our participation in the show was never one where we expected a direct return,” O’Donal said. “We basically want people to say, ‘Oh, you have more unique plants than anyone else.’ It’s a nice thing, but we have other ways to advertise and get people to know us.”

 


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