One hall filled with orchid displays and floral art. One hall filled with stalls selling orchid plants, flasks, orchid pots, and all orchid supplies. Ample free parking. Wheelchair access. Plenty of room for buses for picnics and barbecues. Lunches and coffee are for sale all day. Early spring in Sydney and the fragrance of orchid flowers. Raffles are drawn throughout the day. National Park bushland with walking tracks and native orchids in flower. What more could the orchid lover ask? – The St Ives Orchid Fair.
Well, the four orchid societies who got together to organise the St Ives Orchid Fair believe that this combination of venue, show and vendors means we have the premier orchid event in the State, and after 19 years we are still going strong.
In 1999 members of the committees of four local societies: Ku-ring-gai Orchid Society, Manly Warringah Orchid Society, North Shore Orchid Society, and the Warringah Group of the Australasian Native Orchid Society, got together to discuss the idea of putting on an orchid event together. As all orchid societies are well aware, it has been getting harder and harder to find suitable venues for shows. Shopping centres have changed their policies and prize money sponsorship has become scarce.
We thought maybe we could do something in our area, and we did. The joint societies’ organising committee quickly became a cohesive unit and worked well, efficiently, and hard, and the first Fair took place on Friday, Saturday & Sunday, the 18th, 19th & 20th of August 2000. As August approached, the committee was excited but apprehensive, but we had good support from participating societies with large displays planned by the four organising societies plus Eastwood, S.P.E.C.I.E.S., and the Cymbidium Club, and also Royale Orchids.
There were several tabletop displays booked and the addition of floral art provided a further dimension we felt we had something to interest all orchid enthusiasts as well as flower lovers.
In the other hall we had carefully planned the layout for the stalls for vendors of orchids, pots, and fertilizers, etc. The four organising societies for the St Ives Orchid Fair also had a joint sales table. After all, for the amount of effort put in by them to stage an event like this, it is only fair that the members of the societies who do the work get some benefit.
In issuing invitations to vendors the organising committee was aware of the desirability of providing a wide range of quality orchids for sale. The idea was that buyers would have plenty of choices, and should be satisfied whether they were after flowering plants or the latest seedlings. People would be able to choose from a selection including Cymbidiums, Phalaenopsis, Oncidiums, Cattleyas, native Dendrobiums, Sarcochilus, as well as Australasian species and hybrids, Masdevallias, Zygopetalums and many exotic species,. There are always new and exciting hybrids and species from our interstate and NSW vendors being released at the St Ives Fair.
It would not matter whether visitors went to the sales hall or displays first, as the one entrance fee would cover both halls.
The set-up for the displays took place on Thursday, 15th August 2000, with judging that night. The full local AOC judging panel was required and it was a long night. The quality of the orchids was high and there were a number of quality awards granted and an Award of Cultural Commendation to a superbly flowered plant of Dockrillia teretifolia. Grand Champion Orchid was Dendi Orchids’ Potinara Free Spirit ‘Laina’.
Any fears the organising committee had that the event would not be popular had evaporated by midday on Friday. Orchid lovers certainly like to get to the sales tables early!
The first year the weather was just about perfect. The second year it was not so kind, with strong winds some days and overcast conditions. But that is Sydney in August and there is nothing we can do about the weather. It didn’t matter though because the displays and sales are indoors. Despite the weather, attendance figures improved in the second year and we are now confident that the combination of quality displays and quality vendors is a winner.
It seemed we had a successful formula, and the event was repeated in 2001 and every year since. The quality of the displays each year has remained exceptionally high providing a benchmark for the other Fairs in NSW.
A bonus for the native orchid enthusiast is the location.
St Ives Showground is set in bushland, and a short stroll from the display and sales halls you can find native beauties like Thelymitra ixioides, and Glossodia major.
We are looking forward to the 22nd annual St Ives Orchid Fair which will take place on Friday 18th, Saturday 19th, and Sunday 20th of August 2023. There will again be an excellent range of vendors and displays. See our Show schedule for further information.
St Ives Orchid Fair Organising Committee.