Drew Becher, 42, of Chestnut Hill, is president of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, which produces the Philadelphia International Flower Show, the oldest event of its type in the nation.

by Nathan Lerner

In its 183rd edition, the Philadelphia International Flower Show is the oldest event of its kind in the nation. Despite its venerable status, the show is certainly not a captive of tradition.
Drew Becher is president of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, which produces the flower show. The 42-year-old Chestnut Hill resident contended, “This is a show like you’ve never seen before – people are changing the way that they want to be engaged.”
“They want to feel that they are a part of whatever they’re attending, he said.” One of the overall changes in the show is the true immersion into it. I really want people to think of coming to it as if it was their first time. Everything is going to look new!”
Sporting a theme of “Hawaii: Islands of Aloha,” this year’s show will be festooned with a plethora of leis, orchids and other tropical flora. Upon arrival, attendees will immediately be enraptured by motion graphics, which create a soothing sense of ocean waves.
The prevailing ambiance will be enhanced by a spectacular 25-foot waterfall. To buttress the authenticity of the experience, hula dancers, musicians and craftspeople will be flown in from Hawaii.
Since moving to the Pennsylvania Convention Center in 1996, this is the first time that the floor plan for the event has been revised. According to Becher, “One of the most glaring issues in the past was the bottlenecks. The show itself was east-west aisles, but the marketplace was north-south. It was always a Schuylkill Expressway disaster.”
To alleviate the problem, the marketplace will also adopt an east-west configuration. Becher confidently predicted, “That should ease the congestion problem.”
Sponsorship is another salient change in the event. Becher indicated, “We have a whole new lineup of sponsors. Our main sponsor, Subaru, is back for the 11th year.”
One of the new sponsors, SugarHouse Casino, will be hosting a so-called “Man Cave.” Although the nomenclature suggests a gender-specific enclave, in reality it will be open to both men and women. At the site, visitors can kick back and watch big-screen television screens, play virtual golf and video games and savor adult beverages.
Another change at this year’s show will be the debut of Wedding Wednesday. The March 7 event will be set from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. in a VIP section, adjoining the show floor. This component of the show is geared specifically for brides-to-be, mothers of the bride and bridal party members.
Becher pointed out, “When you think of Hawaii, you think of weddings. A lot of our market that comes to see the show are women who are going to get married and wedding planners. So…we decided to focus on weddings. People are going to get a lot of innovative ideas for weddings.”
Revenues from the Philadelphia International Flower Show will benefit the year-round work of City Harvest, the innovative initiative of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society that brings together a network of urban farmers while providing  green job training and fresh produce for more than 1,000 needy families each week.
Becher explained, “When doing our market research for the show for the business plan, we discovered that people had a hard time understanding where the money from the show went. So…we’re trying to simplify that message by picking out one of our programs … Vegetable gardening and community gardens are really hot now.”
Becher stressed the intrinsic allure of the Philadelphia International Flower Show as a family outing, “For the ticket price, there’s not another event that gives you as much. The show is a hugely unique experience. It’s the only thing like it in the whole country of ours. You will leave with a big smile on your face!
The Philadelphia International Flower Show runs from Sunday, March 4, to Sunday, March 11, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. For more information, call 215-988-8777 or visit www.theflowershow.com.
Nathan Lerner, the director of Davenport Communications, is actively involved in civic and cultural affairs. He welcomes feedback at lernerprose@gmail.com