It’s been a big year for roses in one small Georgia city. In January, Thomasville received notice from the state capital: it is now the official Rose City of Georgia. To commemorate, Thomasville will do what it’s done best since the 1920s—throw a humongous, petal-filled party.
This week will mark 95 years of the annual Thomasville Rose Show & Festival, the oldest rose festival in the South (April 21-23). The celebration opens with an art exhibit on Thursday and continues with a parade on Friday that leads to a street dance backed by a beach-music party band. Throughout the weekend, there will be house tours of a quirky Thomasville landmark—the Queen Anne style 1885 Lapham-Patterson house built with an intentional lack of symmetry. But these are all just side items for the main dish—a spectacular competitive Rose Show.
Vegetables—not roses—can be thanked for starting it all nearly a century ago. In 1920, a few Thomasville ladies won first place for their garden bounty display at the State Fair in Macon. They pooled their $25 winnings as seed money to throw Thomasville’s first rose show in 1921. Neel’s Department Store agreed to display the flowers in the front corner of the shop, but locals brought so many roses that the plants overflowed to every counter and all over the upstairs balcony. The show has been a Georgia favorite ever since.
For the festival, locals decorate storefronts and Victorian cottage homes with flowers, the city maintains eighty-five rose beds all over downtown, and 1,500 bushes are grouped en masse at the Thomasville Rose Garden near Cherokee Lake Park. All paths lead to the rose show, where at least one hundred rose bushes sell quickly and row upon row of cut specimens line up for visitors and American Rose Society judges from all over the country. Judges will crown a Queen of Show and King of Show.
With this year’s festival honoring a generations-old legacy in Thomasville, it’s no surprise there will be a special category for heirlooms dating back to the mid-nineteenth century. “So many people in Thomasville have old roses in their gardens,” says Joanne Maxheimer, Thomasville Rose Society co-president. “They’re a crowd favorite, partly because we remember them from our grandmother’s garden, but also because they are beautiful and fragrant and remind us of yesteryear.”
For more information about this year’s Rose Show & Festival, click here.