These Philadelphians Really Don’t Like the Flower Show


I only have bits and pieces, but what I remember is vivid. I was six, I think. I’m standing in the middle of the street, freaking out. My mom is pulling me, but I’m not moving, paralyzed with fear. People are yelling. I am holding up traffic, I think. The tall buildings seem to swirl around me. I’d lost a baby tooth in the middle of Filbert Street.

Fortunately I made it out okay of this not-actually-dangerous scenario. My parents were even able to collect my tooth; I think I got a buck from the Tooth Fairy. The whole incident didn’t sour me on Market East.

Yesterday, almost a quarter-century later, I’m standing at the same intersection of Filbert Street. This time I’m at the corner. I thought nothing could go wrong. I’m promptly smacked in the head by a man holding a garden broom, which promptly reminds me of my white-hot hatred for the Flower Show.

Don't believe this sign. Only the 7-Eleven is welcoming.

I admit my hatred is at least mildly irrational, but I don’t think I’m alone. I attended the Flower Show once; a friend and I drank free wine at a PLCB tasting event. Not bad! I was bored but I’m not into flowers. If you are, I’ve been told the Flower Show’s strong reputation is deserved.

Others I’ve talked to share the same hatred of the Flower Show. The evidence is anecdotal—um, obviously, Pew hasn’t done a study—but I really believe most people who live and work downtown hate the Flower Show. My mother worked at 11th and Market for decades and recently retired. One of the first things she said to me about it was how excited she was she wouldn’t have to deal with the Flower Show anymore. I could share tons of pseudonymous comments complaining about the Flower Show if I wanted to, but here are just a few examples:

Any popular event held in and around or near downtown—convention, Mummers Parade, Made in America concert, Penn Relays, post-sports victory riot—is going to bring crowds to Center City. Some portion of that crowd is going to be obnoxious. So why is the Flower Show crowd undoubtedly my most hated Center City event crowd? I did some deep thinking and came up with a few theories.

Flower Show Crowds Clog the Sidewalk More

For a week every winter, Flower Show patrons are literally Center City’s biggest sidewalk obstacle. I spend a decent amount of time in Market East—I live downtown and, after all, that’s where The Gallery is—and for some reason, Flower Show patrons clog the sidewalks like no other. Maybe it’s the giant hats:

Maybe! But the crowd isn’t that much larger than other conventions; attendance for last year’s Auto Show was 252,194, while the Flower Show drew 270,000 in 2012. That 20,000 can’t make it that much worse, can it? Maybe the tipping point is 252,195.

The only difference, I guess, is that some of them are carrying flowers or other large goods purchased at the show, so I guess that makes it worse. It’s not like people are leaving the auto show carrying new tires. Though that would be pretty awesome; they should do that.

People Who Like Flowers Are Generally Terrible People

This seemed doubtful, but I had a journalistic duty to consider it. Research proved flower enthusiasts to be pretty cheerful, everyday people. So, no.


Mine have been pretty bad this week. We’ll call this a maybe.

Flower Show Visitors Mess Up SEPTA

This year SEPTA is offering up another annoyance by eliminating the quiet car for the Flower Show’s duration. I don’t ride the train to work, but I did find a lot of people complaining about it:

I don’t think the Flower Show patrons are any heavier than your average SEPTA passenger, incidentally. They might, however, be rowdier. Literally, the official response from SEPTA is that it’s impossible to get Flower Show attendees to quiet down.

Giddiness! That’s the ultimate reason, I think. The Flower Show attendees are just too damn giddy for downtown Philadelphia. It messes with everyone’s vibe. Fortunately, it’s only here until March 10th. Then, things get better. Later this month at the Convention Center: 2013 AmeriKick Championships. Now there’s a group of disciplined folks that I bet know how to behave themselves on the quiet car.