Stilesboro Chrysanthemum Show continues long-standing tradition
by Marie Nesmith
Oct 30, 2011 | 2157 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Mary Morris tends to the flowers she has grown for the 99th annual Stilesboro Chrysanthemum Show.
SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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With her flowers often reaching the size of bread plates, Mary Morris is regarded by her peers as one of the most talented and decorated growers of the Stilesboro Chrysanthemum Show. Competing for more than 15 years, the Taylorsville resident never tires of watching the flowers unveil their rainbow of colors.

"I enjoy growing the flowers most of all," said Morris, a member of the Stilesboro Improvement Club, which sponsors the annual event. "And [I] enjoy seeing the colors that they're going to be and what shape, what they're going to look like. Are they going to be bronze or yellow or pink? Usually sometimes if they get too much shade -- if they're supposed to be pink [and] we shade them too much, they turn out to be white sometimes.

"You have to kind of adjust [how you care for] them because we have to put a cover on them to keep the frost off of them because if you don't the frost will kill them. ... When I first started [competing] I didn't know what I was doing to be honest. I've learned [many things through the years like] when to prune the flowers, how to keep the bugs off of them -- the aphids off of them -- how much fertilizer to give them [and] how to pinch the suckers off of them."

On Saturday, Nov. 5, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., the Stilesboro Chrysanthemum Show is expected to draw hundreds of people to the Stilesboro Academy at 2639 Highway 113, eight miles west of Cartersville. During the event, the public will be able to view the annual contest in which club members enter chrysanthemums in various competition categories.

Expecting to produce more than 100 blooms prior to the show, Morris will submit several in the horticulture division and use the remaining flowers to decorate Stilesboro Academy. Drawing on its theme Days Gone By, the 99th-annual Stilesboro Chrysanthemum Show will utilize fresh greenery and other items, such as a horse and buggy, inside the pre-Civil War structure to showcase the community's rich history.

For Ann Mascia, the Stilesboro Chrysanthemum Show will be the ideal time for the public to visit Stilesboro Academy.

"It's just a wonderful warm feeling that surrounds the whole event. [It] is very nostalgic, something that you really can't get anywhere else anymore," said Mascia, 63, a lifelong attendee of the flower show. "Everything is so commercialized and so similar. There's nothing unique anymore.

"The whole building is decorated with pine trees and smilax vines from the river and the chrysanthemums of course. The smells mingle. It's a wonderful smell and it's just beautiful to see the inside of that building fully decorated because the walls are 20 feet high. We run those vines up on the walls. It's just a marvelous experience to see that little, mini garden created every year."

Implemented in 1912, the flower show is the oldest in the state and one of the oldest in the nation, Mascia said. The event also is the largest fundraiser for the Stilesboro Improvement Club, which is charged with maintaining Stilesboro Academy.

"[The flower show] was conceived as a fundraising project by Miss Campie Hawkins, who was a charter member of the Stilesboro Improvement Club," said Mascia about her great-aunt. "She had seen the plants raised in the garden of a sharecropper's wife who had gotten the plants from the Department of Agriculture in [Washington], D.C. She saw them and was so impressed with how big and beautiful they were that she thought it would be a good fundraiser for the club to do, to use the proceeds [for] the academy. ... Anything that you do to a building that's that old and that big costs a lot of money.

"We don't have any access to government funding or anything like that so we depend on the public to help us fund any kind of repair projects that we have. And we always have a list of repair projects. We're always working on roof repairs because we always have that problem. It's an ongoing thing."

The three-room building that Union Gen. William T. Sherman spared on his march to Atlanta served as a school for children in the first through 12th grades from 1859 through the late 1930s. When the Bartow County School System wanted to close Stilesboro Academy, the club paid what the lumber was worth and in turn received the deed for the school in 1939.

"Everybody in Bartow County should see the academy," Mascia said. "It's a wonderful piece of architecture. There [are] very few of these academies left in the South and Bartow's lucky that we are one of the few places that has one. Sherman's army burned so many of them and then the people in the different communities just didn't appreciate [the remaining ones] and a lot of them were allowed to fall apart. And a lot of them were torn down or burned down to make way for progress."

For more information about the flower show, call Mascia at 770-382-7773. Admission to the event will be $2. For a minimal cost, the public also will be able to partake in an a la carte lunch in the Tea Room, featuring homemade Brunswick stew, chicken salad and desserts.