Sunday, July 4, 2010

Progress threatens annual garden show

When progress occurs, some innocent victims are likely to get plowed under, and the Nashville Lawn & Garden Show may fit into that category as Mayor Karl Dean and others in Metro government stumble ahead to redevelop the Metro-owned, 117-acre State Fairgrounds site south of downtown.
A task force appointed by the mayor has met, and the city intends to find another use for the property, which has played host for two decades to the lawn and garden show each March (as well as many other events).

Whatever happens, change brings casualties. And the prospect of closing the fairgrounds after this year has a lot of business owners, including the nonprofit Nashville Lawn & Garden Show, scrambling to find alternatives to stay in business.

The lawn and garden show is a 21-year-old nonprofit venture that draws to town many for-profit garden shops, small-business owners and landscape designers who sell plants, trees, shrubs, mulch and even backyard waterfalls to all comers.

It draws 22,000 consumers and vendors a year from two dozen states to Nashville for an early March sales spree that uses horticulture to make cash registers ring. During the four-day event, organizers say, the show generates $600,000 in direct sales and sparks contacts that lead to many more sales later in the year.

Search comes up empty

Here's the problem. The lawn and garden show needs a lot of space. It uses the fairgrounds' exhibition halls to house 150 vendors, from the tiny Bee Keepers' Society to big out-of-state nursery and garden shop owners. One hall becomes a massive display of garden designs, with 25 companies shoveling dirt; hauling in potted plants, trees and stones; and setting up reflecting pools to show off their landscaping skill.

John Stinson, a board member with the nonprofit that stages the lawn and garden show, says the group has searched all over for another site. It has looked in Wilson County and Williamson County and at Hickory Hollow Mall, and has toured the downtown Municipal Auditorium, but none of those venues seems to work.

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