San Francisco Flower and Garden Show


When I was a kid – say about 10 – the San Mateo County Products & Floral Fiesta was a big deal, only we – we being everybody I knew in about 1950 – called it The Fiesta. Our parents would leave us alone in a temporary mini-midway, five dollars worth of coupons in hand, to go on the sleazy rides and eat all the bad food we could while they went next door to the Bay Meadows Race Track to watch, and bet on – I guess – the horses. At the end of the day, rejoined by our parents, we might even wander into the buildings where the local farmers showed their flowers, or bushels of fruits and vegetables, or prized animals.

As an aside – On one wander into a county products building, I even saw a mother pig give birth to a bunch of piglets – on a, now unknown but vaguely remembered, bedding covered concrete floor – in a pool of amniotic fluid, as I stood, fascinated, next to my equally fascinated but horrified mother. End aside.

Now the Race Track is gone and the Fiesta grounds are called the San Mateo Event Center. Then San Mateo County seemed more rural than suburban with a population of  235,659  (205,748 Native White, 24,453 Foreign- born White, and 1,110 Chinese according to the Census – now the population is 718,451 with 383,535 White and 178,118 Asian). It is obviously a much more interesting place to live.

For some reason, the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show is now held thirty five miles south of San Francisco at the Event Center, so, for the first time in over 50 years, I went back. There was no midway and there are no pigs and we never got to the flower section, but there were lots of temporary gardens. The picture above is one of the winning gardens and is a little – a lot? – idealized: when we walked in, my first imprssion was of a dark barn with dim tungsten lighting. Sort of like this:

(the camera compensated for the exposure and I went back and corrected the white balance in the first picture.)

We went with Eileen and Aston Pereira who are definitely garden aficionados and had actually got there early to get in more face time with all the displays (such as the Dahlia bulb emporium and the hanging succulent garden seller).

They had saved the gardens to tour last when we got there. The theme was something around small spaces which worked perfectly for the venue. Aston didn’t think the gardens were as good as last year, but I thought a couple were at least very good, one was bizarre but interesting, the rest were above average, and some of the plants were spectacular.

All in all, it was a great way to tour gardens on a crummy, rainy, day.

4 thoughts on “San Francisco Flower and Garden Show

  1. Right you are about the old San Mateo County Fair & Floral Fiesta! In the 50’s and 60’s that was something special, especially the main floral building. It had huge waterfalls and ponds from the ceiling down with paths going through the garden. You could smell the flowers and the water. They usually had an organist playing, many times from the Baldwin company. My love of the organ began at the fair as my organ teacher often played in that building. In my youth, I would bring in a sandwich and sit for hours. There is very little like it at today’s San Mateo Fair. my wife and I haven’t bothered to go for 35 years.

    1. Dave, there was a time when the Fiesta and the State Fair in Sacramento were high-points of mu calendar. I haven’t gone to either for a long time.

  2. Dave, there was a time when the Fiesta and the State Fair in Sacramento were high-points of mu calendar. I haven’t gone to either for a long time.

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