story & photo
by Barbara Reed Collins
Roses were plentiful. The air was perfumed with a sweetness that compelled noses to sniff repeatedly at the annual Rose Show, sponsored by the Woman’s City Club on Saturday, June 14, at the Rose City Senior Center in Norwich.
The display was a picture of quiet elegance, an act of monumental proportions with special accolades to Joyce Brewster, Chairwoman, of Griswold and Diana Tennant, Co-Chair, of Norwich. They work quietly and deliberately for the one big day that heralds the rose and the city’s signature as “The Rose of New England.”
Rose shows are complicated events, demanding hauling in equipment to properly display the entries. The big day starts in pre-dawn hours for registration that takes nearly two hours as people line up with entries. Joyce and Diana write details of arrangements on paper slips that hide the name of the person making the entry. The judges do not see the names. They see only the number assigned for the entry. Joyce and Diana turn the paper slips over to reveal names after the judges complete their tour and chart the numbers of the winners for first, second, third, honorable mentions and Best of Show in the horticulture and design divisions.
The judges are carefully protected from any outside interference. They arrive and depart without any connection with the public. Those who have brought entries are required to leave the premises while the judges circulate the room. The doors open for general viewing after they leave the building. Then the entrants can return to learn the fate of their entries.
While some may be disappointed, there are more happy surprises. The learning curve is paramount as Joyce and Diana circulate and give information and advice about the needs of roses.
Many of the City Club members come with younger family members. Thirteen-year-old Jane Conway attended with her grandmother, Barbara Papelian, and entered her first-ever arrangement. She said she plans to enter again in 2009. Her grandmother beamed.
I myself am an ongoing entrant in the rose shows. I also had some surprises. My entry in the category “In the Kitchen” was a rich chocolate cake in a heart-shaped pan. Pale pink spray roses and baby’s breath decorated the edges. It didn’t win. But the entry in the Colonial category got me a blue ribbon first prize and a large gold ribbon, “Best in Show.” The entry number was 13. My contemporary arrangement, with a tall spray of white roses offset by cactus blossoms, also captured a first place.
David Candler won “Best in Show” for the horticulture division, and also took several other first place awards. First place winners included Ursula Bishop, Sandy Candler, Joyce Brewster, Arlene Sweet, Barbara Leitkowski, James Handy, and Linda Puetz.