I have more thoughts--and historical photos--but I figured first, I'd just post some set up photos:
First, after the winter we had, with the third largest blizzard in Chicago history, we've been wanting spring, which has been extremely slow to arrive. Here's 55th Street in January with the snow still coming down.
The Fair begins early on Thursday--set up day. The courtyard at 6:25 AM on set up day is full of tables waiting for plants. And yes, the first truck arrived at 6:00 AM in the rain and had already been unloaded by the volunteers:
By 10 AM on set-up day, the courtyard of the shopping center was filling up and everyone was hustling to get every one of the over 50,000 plants priced, sorted into the right department, and organized.
I work in the Wildflower/Native Plant department. We like to get inexpensive plants that people will be willing to take a chance on to help the native butterflies and hummingbirds. But inexpensive means little plants, so, I've been making little signs for the little plants that show a picture and give some tips on where they'll grow. This is the sunny plant/prairie table. And we were grateful that set up day stayed sunny.
By late on Thursday almost everything was ready to go--and it was hot and still not raining. Here's the Containers Department looking enticing to a pre-Fair browser:
Friday morning arrived with a few hours of pleasant sunshine, which was great for the early shoppers lining up before the Fair. We did gangbuster business on Friday morning. People know the most unusual and interesting plants vanish that first hour.
Unfortunately, most of the GF was cold and wet and foggy with a stiff breeze off the lake. I didn't have the heart to take pictures--but this has happened before--here we are being cold and wet during the deluge of 2009--and yet the die-hard gardeners still come out and shop. Because, after all, it's the Garden Fair, and annual rituals give shape to life--and in Chicago, we hunger for spring.