by Paula M. Riley
Last Thursday, approximately 26,000 visitors experienced Chestnut Hill.
They weren’t walking along Germantown Avenue. Instead, Chestnut Hill came to them. Thursday, March 6, was “Chestnut Hill Day” at the Philadelphia Flower Show. Held at the Philadelphia Convention Center, this is world’s largest indoor flower show, attracting more than 250,000 attendees.
On Chestnut Hill Day, Flower Show guests were given individually wrapped chocolates with a card attached declaring, “Bold Strokes, Many Colors: Find Yours in Chestnut Hill.”
This theme was inspired by Woodmere’s exhibition at the Flower Show of Quita Brodhead, a Philadelphia artist. Her exhibit, “Bold Strokes” is currently on display at Woodmere Art Museum. Woodmere was chosen as one of 15 nationally ranked Art Museums to participate in this year’s Flower Show.
Chestnut Hill business owners participated in live demonstrations at the show’s Garden Table Studio and Designer Studio throughout the day. Melissa Palmer, of Florum Florists at Market at the Fareway, was thrilled to be invited to demonstrate; her presentation focused on origami pots.
“I wanted to do something that was different, sustainable and artsy that guests could learn quickly and have fun,” said Palmer.
Origami pots are artistically folded newspapers for seedlings and can be planted directly into the ground. Palmer showed the audience how to use these pots for gifts as well. She included a foursome of herbs in one pot and a collection of pansies in the other. Wrapped with ribbon, these make delightful host/hostess gifts.
Palmer was excited and nervous to participate in such a huge show, but, once she got on stage, she was comfortable in her role. She particularly enjoyed the chance to share her skills with the crowd.
“I have a philosophy that we should all share the wealth. I want to share what I know with others so they can enjoy it as much as I do,” she said.
On the other side of the Exhibit Hall, cake artists from Night Kitchen Bakery and Bredenbeck’s Bakery & Ice Cream Parlor were showing guests how to decorate a cake.
Katie McCafferty from Night Kitchen began by frosting a two-tier cake with butter cream. She then taught the audience how to work with fondant. This thick paste, made from sugar and water, is used for icing and decorating. McCafferty rolled out fondant onto a flat sheet and covered the entire cake with this. She then created a small tulip flower head from the fondant.
Diana Anello, Bredenbeck’s sugar artist, followed McCafferty. Anellio demonstrated using fondant to create flowers and other designs on her cake – a three-tier tower covered in black fondant.
During the course of the demonstrations, both artists provided interesting and useful tips on cake decorating. They answered questions from the audience on topics ranging from how to color fondant to details of the cakes they have created for celebrities like Elton John and Patti LeBelle.
Amy Edelman, owner of Night Kitchen, often exhibits at regional events. She enjoys the exposure opportunity such demonstrations bring. Beside the cake decorating demo, Night Kitchen provided the wedding cake for winners of Philadelphia Wedding Magazine’s Greatest Groom Contest, Frank Kennedy and Roxanne Wilson, who were married at the Flower Show. When the couple went to Night Kitchen for their cake tasting, so did CBS 3.
“Demonstrating at the show is a nice opportunity to talk about the bakery and what distinguishes us from other bakeries,” Edelman said.
Paul Roller of Roller’s Flying Fish showed a crowded audience how to create ratatouille, as well as two chicken dishes. He was entertaining and interesting, engaging with the audience in serious and comical exchanges. He offered great suggestions on organizing the cooking space, preparing vegetables, and cutting with sharp knives. The knowledgeable audience asked questions regarding ingredient substitution options, managing tomatoes’ acidity, blanching tips and much more.
Earlier in his career, Roller taught classes, but it had been a long time since he presented to an audience that size. Like Palmer, Roller viewed his participation as a fun opportunity to share his knowledge.
“I understand this cooking thing, so if I can help other people understand it, I will,” said Roller.
Throughout his 45-minute demonstration Roller found himself moving at a much slower, more relaxed pace than he has in his restaurant. Roller said he found the whole experience delightful. He added that the exposure was nice but doesn’t expect a huge boom in business as result.
“Hopefully, I created some goodwill for us (Roller’s Flying Fish) and for the whole street,” Roller said.
Throughout the nine-day flower show, the Chestnut Hill Business Improvement District was trying to do the same. It exhibited in the show’s Grand Hall Concourse, welcoming visitors and providing information on Chestnut Hill. A raffle was held for “19118” gift bags – canvas bags embroidered by Threadwell with the zip code and filled with fashion-forward items from J. McLaughlin, Roots, Artisans on the Avenue, Mango, Style Camp and Salon 90.
Raffle contest entries included a request for an email address. Last year at the Flower Show more than 3,000 new emails were added to the CHBA database, which is used for promotion of Chestnut Hill events all year long. Many businesses donated items, and Bowman Properties was the primary sponsor of the Chestnut Hill exhibit.
“There is a wonderful partnership between CHBA and PHS (Pennsylvania Horticultural Society) and we are happy to be part of it,” said Richard Snowden, owner of Bowman Properties.
Snowden said he recognized that the audience drawn to the Flower Show mirrors what the business district attracts to shop, play and eat in Chestnut Hill. He values the partnership and opportunity for local business to exhibit and demonstrate at the show.
Palmer looked back at the Show and said she will recall participating in it as a career highlight.
“If I get direct business from the demonstrations I’ll be happy,” Palmer said. “But if I was walking down the street and saw an origami pot in a window, well that would be even better. That would be super cool.”