Newlyweds Alyssa and Louis Dell’Arciprete pose together outside of the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel while on their honeymoon to the Big Island from Philadelphia, Penn. The couple on Friday visited the 2012 Tropical Trends conference at the hotel. The Dell’Arcipretes won their honeymoon trip from the Big Island Visitors Bureau during the 2012 Philadelphia International Flower Show in March, where the theme was “Hawaii Islands of Aloha.” Alyssa was born on Oahu and moved to the East Coast when she was 5. She said of their trip, “It’s like coming home, but there is so much new stuff, too.” Louis said, “It’s amazing. We don’t want to leave.” The couple was married on Oct. 13 and had a floral-Hawaii themed wedding with the help of Alyssa’s aunt, Jill Stensrud, who shipped tropical flowers and leis for the ceremony from Honolulu. (HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald)
Coming on the heels of a spectacular success at the Philadelphia flower show in March, this weekend’s fourth annual conference of the Hawaii Island flower industry will reflect a new sense of excitement.
The local industry is building on the idea of greater strength through collaboration that made the Philadelphia show possible, and channeling that theme into its three-day conference that began Friday at the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel, titled “Tropical Trends — Collaboration Now in the 21st Century.”
Flower industry insiders will find goodies galore. Friday was devoted to new ways to improve flower production; today’s focus is on developing new marketing ideas and techniques that will sell Hawaii’s flowers to the world.
A highlight of the conference for the flower-loving public will be a floral design contest ala TV’s “Iron Chef” on Sunday.
The scenario involves a hypothetical bride and groom from New York planning their Hawaii wedding. Seven local floral designers receive a “secret package” of materials from which they will have to create a bride’s bouquet, a table setting and a centerpiece for the reception tables at the couple’s “Big Event.” The designers will have an hour to create the bouquet and 90 minutes for the table arrangements, and the audience will get to see it all happen.
The event will be open from 10:30 to a.m. to 11:30 a.m. while the competitors prepare their work. The doors will then close for judging until 1:30 and remain open to the public to view the winning entries up close until 3 p.m. Admission is free.
Judges will award cash prizes to the winners and the audience will vote to select one of the bouquets for its “People’s Choice” award.
The flower industry is coming off a big floral high from its success at the Philadelphia Flower Show in March, which won major awards for its “Hawaii — Islands of Aloha” production. More than a quarter-million visitors viewed the attraction.
“One organization couldn’t have done it alone,” said Eric Tanouye, owner of Green Point Nursery and vice president of the Hawaii Tropical Flowers Council, one of the show’s sponsors. It was the collaboration of Hawaii industry leaders and government which paid off in record attendance at the show due to the quality and growing interest in Hawaii products, he said. “We got everybody involved.”
Of the 270,000 people who attended the Philadelphia International Flower Show, surveys indicated that each was more than twice as likely to plan a visit to Hawaii as they were before attending the show, Tanouye added.
The Philadelphia show “rejuvenated us” as an industry,” he said. “We pulled off the biggest event we ever did.”
The Hawaii Floriculture and Nursery Association is now uniting a number of related industry organizations on the island under one umbrella and has about 330 members, Tanouye said. “We’re willing to play together now.”
This weekend’s conference brings local and international experts together to discuss new strategies, design trends, latest product techniques and industry challenges for the future. Brand marketing, agri-tourism, and creating a sense of place surrounding Hawaii products will be convention topics.
Friday’s focus was on production — a nursery seminar, weeds, pest control methods, koa wilt, ohia rust — important topics for the industry’s future. Today’s focus is on marketing.
Sunday is when the fun begins. It’s the first time the conference has sponsored a floral design competition. Previously floral design classes were held on Sunday at the conference, but the members this year thought to spice things up.
“Anyone planning to get married or thinking about having a wedding should come on down,” said Tanouye.
“The real winner is the public,” said Carol Okada, who is Plant Quarantine branch manager for the state Department of Agriculture and one of three judges for the design competition. “They get to see the unexpected things, exotic stuff they didn’t even think was grown here. By using all locally grown materials, you can come up with really nice things.”
Okada oversees bio-security management for the state so she’s keenly aware of the need to keep invasive species and plant diseases from entering Hawaii. As a result, she encourages local propagation of plants that are now being imported for use in floral displays locally. Most dendrobriums, for example, are imported from Thailand, she said, which can lead to the spread of pests and plant diseases to Hawaii that are difficult to eradicate. “I’m really glad to see this competition,” she said, “because bridal bouquets just happen to be high risk for pests.
The two other judges will be noted Canadian floral designer Hitomi Gilliam, who will also be a presenter today at the conference, and Day-Day Hopkins, recently retired Agriculture Specialist with Hawaii County.
“I just want to see what they do over there,” Okada said this week from her Honolulu office. “The final product really takes on the personality of the designers.”
Program speakers today also include Aaron Brown of the Hawaii Small Business Development; Dr. Stuart Nakamoto of UH-Manoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources; Jim McCully of Mauna Kea Orchids Inc.; Linda Milark, All About Plants; Henry Wingrond, Novelle Consulting LLC; and Andrew Watterson, Hawaiian Airlines.