Home » Meet in PHL » Meeting News Archive » Q&A With Drew Becher Pennsylvania Horticultural Society President and Producer of the World’s Largest Indoor Flower Show at Pennsylvania Convention Center
Q&A With Drew Becher Pennsylvania Horticultural Society President and Producer of the World’s Largest Indoor Flower Show at Pennsylvania Convention Center
Tell us about the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and the history of the Flower Show When the organization was started in 1827 it was really a group of people that got together to talk about plants and their collections and that type of thing. The Flower Show started two years after that in 1829, making it the longest running flower show in the world. Actually it is the single largest annual event that happens in the Greater Philadelphia region, bringing in on average about 250,000 people to the city over a week. About 60 percent of these people are from the Greater Philadelphia region and 40 percent out-of-region. The show generates a 65 million dollar economic impact each year.
In the early seventies, PHS began urban greening and beautification and that has really grown. We have one of the largest urban greening and beautification programs in the country here in Philadelphia and we own and operate many of the community gardens. Many of the great gardens you see on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the Delaware River waterfront, we work with them to create those gardens. We also just signed on with the Convention Center to beautify that area.
What can attendees expect from the Flower Show this year This year we are exploring the magic of the movies. We are celebrating the movies at the Flower Show and the big partner with us this year is Walt Disney studios and Disney Pixar. It’s the first time that Disney has done anything like this. And we also have a strategic alliance with 6ABC, which is a Disney-owned property. They are heavily involved in the promotional stages with us. All of the Flower Show designers were asked to pick a Disney movie as inspiration for their displays. Also the motion picture Cinderella comes out March 13th and the Flower Show is one of the major places where that movie is going to be promoted in the United States and we are really excited about that. The actual glass slipper from Disney is coming here.
When people walk in we are going to take then back to the 1920s and ‘30s, and we are going to recreate one of the big movie palaces out of flowers and it’s going to be unbelievable. When you walk below the marquee, you are going to be in the theatre. If you see pictures of those theatres, there’s gold and cut-glass and gorgeous interiors. In our theater, it’s all going to be flowers. We are going to have chandeliers made out of orchids and palms. It’s going to be really unbelievable.
When does planning for the flower show begin? When do you come up with the theme and when you actually start? We begin building the show a week and a half before the opening. But we start planning the Flower Show about two years in advance. So we are right now talking about 2016 and figuring out 2017 as well.
Has the Flower Show always been at the Convention Center and what has your experience been working at the Center? For years, it used to be at the Civic Center in West Philadelphia and then that was torn down and we moved to the Convention Center in 1996. We have been at the Convention Center since it was built. We have had really great experiences there and there are always going to be issues whenever you are doing a show like the Flower Show as there’s no other show like this. But overall our experience has been positive with the Convention Center. When we go out on the road with PHLCVB, we are always focusing on the fact that if the Convention Center can pull off the Flower Show, it can do anything. The amount of people it takes to build and actually create the Flower Show is shocking. Literally, there are thousands of people there working all the time to get the show ready and a lot of components of the show are presented with volunteers. That adds a whole other level of complexity onto the issue, but the major construction on the show floor and everything like that is done with labor from the Convention Center and labor that we bring in. And since 1996 we have been on time every single year.
Has PHS ever worked with convention groups to do special installations? Yes, we have worked with a couple of conventions that have come through and it’s something we have been working on with the Convention Center and the PHLCVB to expand even more. We have a tree planting program in the city to plant one million trees in the greater region and we want to work with convention groups who want to come in and do something to give back to the city. It’s a nice sort of environmental message for conference attendees and we’ve worked with two or three groups doing that so far, but we would really like to expand.
As a Philadelphia resident, what do you think is our city’s best asset? I think it’s the open space, the parks, the public realm, the streets. When people come to visit a city, you might have your convention inside the Convention Center, but people want to experience the city and Philadelphia does a good job delivering a great product with our pop-up gardens and all the other stuff we are doing.
Since the theme of this year’s Flower Show is movies, what’s your favorite filmed-in-Philadelphia movie? Everyone always says Rocky, but I really like Trading Places. It’s one of those movies you watch over and over and over again. And it’s just so funny, I love seeing the scene with the Union League.
Is there anything else you’d like to communicate to meeting planners about PHS and the Flower Show? One of the things is that the flower show is a fundraiser. It’s our largest fundraiser and all of the funds that are raised go back into our neighborhoods and downtown for beautification projects. So when you purchase a ticket, you’re going to see the outcome because we will be investing that money at the Convention Center, making sure that outdoor areas around Arch street and along Broad street are more embellished with plants and looking more beautiful with the years to come.