This year we are proud to celebrate our 75th anniversary of the Riverside Flower Show! 75 years is a long tradition in itself, but did you know flower shows in Riverside date back to the 1800s? In 1870 settlers arrived to the plain above the Santa Ana River establishing the foundation of our city. They soon discovered beautiful plants thrived with the water provided and celebrated with a chrysanthemum show in 1878 followed by a rose show in 1890.
In 1929, the Riverside Women’s Club held their first flower show at the Women’s Clubhouse. The Flower Show was moved to the Municipal Auditorium in 1931 and records indicate 3,000 were in attendance for “La Fiesta de Las Flores”! A year later, the Riverside Cactus and Succulent Society had its first garden show display. Due to the show popularity, the City Beautification Committee of the Chamber of Commerce was asked to manage what had become a grand Main Street parade, a garden show with music, dancing, and a very popular private garden contest.
In 1936, Lorraine Small, expert gardener and writer of the popular “Small Talk” garden column in the Press-Enterprise for 40 years, was part of a group of garden enthusiasts who formed the Riverside Garden Club. The city continued its garden contests, and the Riverside Garden club put on annual shows, as did many other clubs.
In 1945 De Anza Days began its Riverside tradition, with the garden clubs entering floral covered floats in the De Anza Day parades. Then, in 1947, six sponsors came together to form the Annual Riverside Garden Show, under the leadership of Howard Starke. A professional gardener from Los Angeles was paid to manage the show, held at the Municipal Auditorium. Admission was 25 cents and the crowds came from all over Southern California. Show themes included “In an Old Mission Garden” and “El Dorado Trails” demonstrating the pride in Riverside’s heritage.
These flower shows continued through the 1950’s and 60’s, with each show containing hundreds of cultural specimens and flower arrangements, workshops, home garden tours, music, and art. The current day Riverside Rose Society, Iris Society, Begonia Society, and Orchid Society were all formed during this time and were very active in these shows. In 1961 the show was moved to the Riverside Armory in Fairmount Park, with the theme “Japanese”, in honor of our sister city, Sendai. Japanese wives from March AFB attended in their beautiful native costumes. The shows were advertised on milk bottles and young women toured the city in a new dealership car decorated with advertising flowers and banners. There were over 600 flower entries in 1963.
In 1970, Riverside’s Centennial year, the “Flowers of Yesterday and Today” show was moved back to the Municipal Auditorium. Tickets were $1 each. Fruits and vegetable entries were added in 1974, and the show was moved to the Raincross Square at the Riverside Convention Center in 1975.
For the 50th Anniversary in April 1997, the "California Gold" show was moved to its current location, at the Elks Lodge on Brockton. Over 20 local florists contributed arrangements to the show, and 9 workshops were offered, on topics ranging from herbs to water gardens.
For what may have been the first time in the show's history, our Flower show was cancelled in 2019 and 2020 due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. After the 2 year hiatus, with limited member participation, we were proud to be able to offer a Garden Tour and Vendor Fair in 2021. Our efforts were well received, and we had a similar turnout for the event as previous years.
Building upon the show’s history, we are excited for the return of plant entries, floral arrangements, garden and craft vendors, youth entries, workshops, home garden tours, along with expert garden advice, and more!
This year, the 75th Annual Riverside Flower Show and Garden Tour invites everyone to join in and celebrate our Diamond Jubilee, Festival of Flowers on April 29 and 30, 2023 at the Riverside Elks Lodge.