published August 31, 2012

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You’ve come a Long way, Baby

Youngest member,
Dana Dombrowski with
Most Fragrant Orchid winner.
The Ridge Orchid Society, Polk County, FL
1962 - 2012

All clubs obviously have a beginning as well as a reason for their continued existence. Our club, The Ridge Orchid Society, based in Bartow, Florida began some 50 years ago as a result of interested people coming together to share knowledge and experience and sometimes even inexperience.

Undoubtedly, there are other orchid societies in Florida which pre-date ours. In the last 50 years we have grown from a group of about 20 people, meeting in individuals' homes, to a dedicated group which meets every fourth Tuesday at the Bartow Civic Center. In fact, in our membership, we still have one member who attended the original organizational meeting in 1962 and also a married couple who joined at the second meeting that year.

Our membership currently ranges in age from a young orchid grower who is 14 years old to a member who is 96. Our youngest member joined us at the age of 11. Our oldest member and his wife have been in our society since 1965. Membership has steadily grown over the years to approximately 135 at this time. We feel the growth and longevity of our Society may partly be attributed to the experienced hobby growers and orchid nursery growers who are willing to share their insight and experience with new as well as less experienced members.

The Ridge Orchid Society may also attribute much of its longevity to the fact that we try to attract an interesting group of professionals, as well as laymen, to speak to our group about orchids and their culture. Over the years we have been fortunate to attract many well-known orchid nurseries to speak to us as well as many orchid growers known for their extensive collections.

96 yr. old John Edwards shows off a
Cattleya hybrid he brought to
a monthly meeting.

An additional factor that has contributed to our longevity is a willingness to volunteer. We rely on that willingness not only as we organize and present shows, but also in the variety of activities we have engaged in over the years. Our emphasis has been on educational opportunities such as study groups, talks by experienced growers, trips to orchid shows and visits to orchid growers throughout the area. In addition to our annual show we also strive to educate the public about orchids through means other than our annual show. We have placed numerous small displays in banks, hospitals and at other community centered events.

As the title implies, we have come a long way in the last 50 years. An example of this is that one of our earliest shows was held at the old “Citrus Festival Building” in Winter Haven. (This was the old Orange Dome that is now in the process of being torn down.) The staging material at that time consisted of a large number of old, wooden packing crates for citrus and truckloads of sand. Before we could even begin staging, the individual bays, (which each citrus packing company had previously used for their own exhibits), had to be cleared out and painted by volunteers from our society.

Since that time we have had shows in many different venues from, banks, to Malls, to a livestock arena and even in a WWII Quonset hut.

Now, 50 years after our inception, we are planning a spectacular orchid show to be held Sept. 15th and 16th, 2012 at the Lake Mirror Center. This beautiful venue is beside the Lake Mirror Promenade in Lakeland, FL.

Fittingly, since this will be our 50th annual orchid show, our theme is "The Golden Age of Orchids". Please come join us for what we plan to be an outstanding show.

Jean Mitchell