It wasn’t too long ago the annual South Carolina Festival of Flowers didn’t have topiaries.
Imagine that. How could that be?
No one mentioned topiaries until Kathryn Smith did. It wasn’t until Smith, who was a long-standing member of the Festival of Flowers steering committee, came up with the idea and Kay Self backed her that the topiaries bloomed. Self was executive director of the Festival of Flowers at the time.
In what really is just a few short years, the topiaries have blossomed into the signature event for the Festival of Flowers and are what help bring people to Greenwood.
I was a member of the Festival of Flowers steering committee when Smith came up with the idea. It was the right idea at the right time for the festival, which needed a boost and the topiaries delivered.
I wish I could claim the topiaries as mine ... they were not, but I can say I voted to pursue the idea.
As a committee, we were looking at ways to breathe new life into the month-long event in Greenwood each June. We had kicked around ideas of doing something like Aiken did with its horse statues, Anderson has done with its fish and Edgefield has done with its wild turkeys.
I thought it would be cool to get large clay pots and have local artists decorate them and then display them in Uptown Greenwood during the Festival of Flowers. That idea paled in comparison to Smith’s topiaries.
The topiaries were spurred on by visits to Disney World in Florida and talks to topiary experts there. The first year for topiaries in Uptown Greenwood was 2008, which also was the same year Smith served her second term as chairwoman, and rightly so.
We’ve come a long way from the handful of topiaries that first year. We’re somewhere at 30-plus, depending on who’s doing the counting. Two topiaries have been added this year. “Lily” the mermaid and “Smile” the photo op will join the likes of “Bearcat,” “Gamecock,” “Grrrrr Kasas” the tiger, “Horton” and “Milak” the baby and mama elephant and “Sweet Caroline” the butterfly.
The topiaries have showcased the work that can be done when a community pulls together. What once was done by volunteers is now being done through a staff led by Dwight Long and Ann Barklow with the Public Works Department with the City of Greenwood. The topiaries now have a nice off-season home in the greenhouse on Phoenix Street.
The topiaries are plugged (planted) by students in Greenwood County school districts and are sponsored by area folks and businesses. The schools and sponsors need to be applauded for the work and support they provide. Festival of Flowers executive director Ellesor Holder said there will be flags at each topiary giving each school and sponsor recognition. Don’t forget to make note of the schools and the sponsors.
Some of the sponsors are perfect fits for their topiaries. Chick-fil-A of Greenwood has “Milkshake” the cow while Quality Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Kia of Greenwood’s “Jeep Wrangler” has been near the fountain for years. Savannah Lakes Shorelines Magazine sponsors “Ali” the gator and “Harley” the Labrador retriever is sponsored by Harley Funeral Home and Crematory.
Lander University sponsors the “Bearcat,” Greenwood County Gamecock Club sponsors “Gamecock” and Fujifilm sponsors “Great Expectations” the Quicksnap camera.
If you’re new to the topiaries, first-times will be wowed and amazed. If you’ve seen the topiaries before, and think you don’t need to take a look again, your’re wrong. You’ll be wowed and amazed, too.
Regardless of where you fit, take some time this month as the blistering days turn into warm evenings, head Uptown before the stores close and shop, then look at the topiaries, grab a bite to eat and discover what Uptown Greenwood has to offer.
The 47th annual South Carolina Festival of Flowers is open for business.
Sitarz can be reached at 864-943-2529 or via email at jsitarz@indexjournal.com. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.