Greenville Camellia Show blooms despite weather

Published 11:51 am Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Jan Newton, president of the Greenville Camellia Society, expressed her overwhelming satisfaction with the 2024 Greenville Camellia Show, which took place at Beeland Park from Jan. 27-28. Despite facing heavy rain on Saturday and below-freezing temperatures in the preceding week, the event showcased over 600 blooms and attracted an estimated 1,000 visitors.

Newton, reflecting on the success of the show, said she initially harbored doubts about the decision to extend the event to two days, but described being pleasantly surprised by the community’s enthusiastic response.

“We wanted a thousand visitors, and I think we’re about to pass that mark,” Newton said. “I’m overwhelmed by the enthusiasm we’ve seen.”

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Jointly organized by the Greenville Camellia Society and the City of Greenville, the show was a testament to the resilience of Camellia enthusiasts and the enduring appeal of the beautiful flowers. Recognized by the American Camellia Society, the park’s Camellia Garden has recently been inducted into the prestigious American Camellia Trail, joining the ranks of renowned locations like the Smithsonian Institute and Martha’s Vineyard.

The show, which offered free admission to the public, welcomed both novice and experienced local growers to submit their blooms for judging. The schedule featured entry submissions and judging on Saturday, Jan. 27, followed by public viewing on both Saturday and Sunday. Additionally, plant sales were available from 1-4 p.m. on both days.

The event began on Friday, Jan. 26, with a judge’s reception dinner held at the Robert Trent Jones (RTJ) golf course clubhouse at Cambrian Ridge. Camellia Queen Belle Airey, a certified EMT and pre-med student at the University of South Alabama, was in attendance on Saturday.

Sunday’s festivities included a cake and punch reception to celebrate the Butler County Historical and Genealogical Society’s 60th anniversary. Barbara Middleton, the society’s president and a devoted Camellia enthusiast, expressed her satisfaction with the turnout despite the challenging weather conditions.

“We’ve had a freeze, a flood and rain,” Middleton remarked. “But at 1 p.m. yesterday, the rain stopped, and we had a fantastic turnout.”

The show’s roots trace back to J. Glenn Stanley, former editor of The Greenville Advocate, who played a pivotal role in establishing Greenville as “The Camellia City” in 1938. Stanley’s advocacy for widespread Camellia planting ultimately led to the Camellia’s designation as Alabama’s official bloom in 1959, thanks to the efforts of State Representative LaMont Glass.