Only in the year 2020 could the 22nd iteration of an event get a “beta test.”
But such is the year and the situation for organizers of what was to be the 22nd-annual Soroptimist Gala Garden Show.
Among the first of the local clubs to cancel their event originally scheduled for March, Soroptimist have pushed the popular event to an all-online show, hosting educational webinars via Zoom, an auction, information/posts about vendors and videos about how Soroptimist International of Sequim supports the community.
Janet Popelka is the Virtual Garden Show chair, leading a group of committee members who have worked months in planning. The new club president Kris Osborn’s theme this year, Popelka said, is “outside the box,” and moving an entire garden show online certainly fits that description.
“We didn’t know how we could change things (so) this is our ‘beta test’: Can we do things virtually?” Popelka said.
The largest garden show on the Olympic Peninsula each year brings together products and professional services of horticultural and garden-related businesses. The event would draw about 2,000 visitors and 40-50 vendors over two days, netting the Soroptimist club about $25,000 — all of which made the March decision so difficult, Popelka said.
“We struggled with that decision (to cancel, but) it’s not safe for the public and most of our members are in the high risk category, so it’s high risk for us,” she said.
“It was going to be a hardship, especially for the vendors.”
Now all of those garden show efforts are on the web.
The virtual show actually kicked off in the first few days of September, as garden show organizers began posting “shout outs” on social media with pictures and information about vendors who asked to be included in this year’s show. That included two videos of the show’s “featured vendors” — Mike’s Cedar Works and Fleurish Lavender of Lost Mountains — as well as posting of information about Manny’s Works, a vendor at the very first Soroptimist Gala Garden Show who creates hand-carved concrete Japanese inspired garden lanterns and pagodas.
While some vendors asked for refunds for their 2020 show fee, other vendors asked their payment be applied for next year’s show and some simply made it a donation to the club, Popelka said.
“(This was) to say thank you to vendors we had who couldn’t do their show,” she said.
And while the first two weeks of the month in particular highlight the vendors, the second half of the month is dedicated to focusing on the Soroptimist International of Sequim mission, plus educational events and the online auction.
“We will showcase our mission, and what it is that we do with the money we raise with our special events, how we better our community,” Popelka said.
Soroptimist International of Sequim helps nonprofits such as First Step, the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula and the Kathleen Sutton Fund among others, and funds scholarships for local graduating high schoolers as well as those continuing their education.
During the garden show, the group will post two short videos of recent high school scholarship recipients Kjirstin Foresman and Sammantha Church, as well as a video of Alexandria Allen, recent recipient of the club’s “Live Your Dream” award.
“When people see our mission, and if that touches their heart, we hope they will donate,” Popelka said.
The group accepts donations on its two websites (both www.sequimgardenshow.com and www.sisequim.org have donate buttons) and by mail to: Soroptimist International of Sequim, P.O. Box 126, Sequim WA 98382.
Garden show “attendees” can also get in on an online auction. Organizers began posting pictures of the items and bidding rules on Sept. 3 and the auction starts on Sept. 14. The auction premise is simple: Each of the 14 auction items will be up for auction for 48 hours, and participants can bid on items by using the comment field on the garden show Facebook page.
Items include garden cart with weed eater, two handmade quilts and a a Clearwater Casino get-away among others.
“I’m excited about it,” Popelka said of the auction.
The educational seminars will be on Zoom and are spaced a week apart. They include:
• 10 a.m., Sept. 19 — Keith Dekker, “Fall Pruning – The Do’s and Don’ts!”
• 10-11 a.m., Sept. 26 — Panel including Keith Dekker and Master Gardeners Muriel Nesbitt and Jeanette Stehr-Green, “Fall and Winter Gardening Tips and Tasks”
Helping Popelka plan this year’s show were Shawn Dredla, Paulette Hill, Linda Klinefelter, Kathy Purcell, Linda Rotmark and Chris Show.