The flowers are heading back inside.
Just two days after wrapping up the 2022 Flower Show at FDR Park — its temporary home of two years over COVID-19 concerns — the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society announced Tuesday the show will return to the Convention Center in 2023.
The show will once again run in early spring, from March 4 through March 12.
“The Convention Center has been our home since 1996 — and it’s time to go back home,” said Sam Lemheney, the Flower Show’s chief of shows and events. “It’s home and it’s where the show exists.”
Lemheney, who has the run the show for 19 years, said in an interview Tuesday that the shift outdoors was never meant to be permanent. The decision to stay in FDR Park for this year’s show was made nearly a year in advance, when remaining outside represented the safer bet.
Working closely with the city Department of Public Health, PHS considered it safe to head back indoors for next year, he said.
“Coming outside was definitely a shift because of the pandemic — to keep everyone safe and healthy,” he said. “The whole reason for going outside was the pandemic, and now it’s time to go back inside.”
Many guests greeted the outdoor show as a welcomed immersive floral experience in a time of shutdowns and pandemic, and planners made changes to this year’s show to address visitor complaints over parking, transportation, ticketing, design, and weather.
Lemheney said guest feedback over those enhancements — which included closer parking options and shuttles, more flexible ticketing sales, a reimagined layout, and far more cooling tents and water misters — had been “overwhelmingly positive.” But he said the final attendance and sales numbers for this year’s show were still being tallied, he said.
“There were certainly folks that loved the show outside and folks who were excited about the outdoor show but wanted to go back inside,” Lemheney said.
Vendors still recovering from a hot and muddy week welcomed the change. They said show organizers made good faith efforts to address logistical issues and couldn’t control complications such as overnight rain that left the mulch paths to their booths damp even on dry days, but the outdoor experience was a stressful experiment.
“I was so lucky that my booth was at a slightly higher elevation,” said three-year Flower Show vendor Adam Scales of Invisible Lens Photography. “I’m talking about inches relative to the booths across the way where there were vendors who had real flooding problems the first couple of days.”
Vendors also welcome the possibility of more visitors, describing smaller crowds at FDR Park.
Sin Gogolak, a spokesperson for the show, said officials did not plan to release any attendance data.
“The outdoor show can’t be compared to the indoor show in any practical terms such as size, scope, or programming,” she said. “They are truly are two unique events when compared in those terms and focusing on attendance would give an unequal perception of how the outdoor event performed.”
Still, she said, ”PHS is pleased with the attendance and how the show was received by the public this season.”
First-time Flower Show vendor Laura Doan, owner of Laura’s Raw Honey in Benton, hopes the switch to the Convention Center will prove her experience this year was a fluke.
“I barely made my cost,” she said. “It was not good, but I definitely do want to go back next year because I know it’s going to be indoors. I’m not as distraught as some of the other vendors, like I know a lot of people who were very, very upset.”
By far the biggest challenge of the outdoor show came with the logistical hurdles — including electricity, restrooms, water — of setting up a floral extravaganza on 15 acres of a public park in South Philadelphia.
“We’re almost like a small little city here — and we have to bring all the needs we have,” Lemheney had said earlier during this year’s show. “All of the infrastructure that’s literally built into the Convention Center has to be brought out here — that’s our biggest challenge.”
Going back to the Convention Center solves those challenges, he said Tuesday.
“Certainly we had lots of conversations, but at the end of the day we all felt going back to the Convention Center was where we belong. That’s where we had been successful in the past and continue to be successful in the future.”