WAFA Boston 2011
By Graham Parker
I am a tour guide for European Connoisseurs Travel (ECT) .Why? Because I totally believe in their tours and love their client base so imagine my joy, just as much as that of the 44 strong group that I took with me, when we arrived in Boston USA for the world flower event of WAFA.
Once we had landed state-side, we walked out into 85f sunshine, suitcases trailing, to await our hotel coach transfer and this gave us a real sense of holiday! It’s only 3 miles from the airport to the city centre, so in no time we arrive in the opulent foyer and reception hall of the Boston Park Plaza Hotel. Built in 1927, this was one of the last inter-war luxury class hotels in the style that you could imagine fashionable ‘20s ladies stepping into from cruise ships; doors opened by a valet’s hand, shoe shine men, bell hops and polished brass work gleaming under crystal chandeliers. The Roaring Twenties still hung in the air! And if you think I am joking, how many hotels with three near baroque, gold-gilt ballrooms can you think of?
We are expected, booked-in and key cards in hand, ECT’s clients went to their rooms
I waited in reception, as is my wont, to answer any ‘settling in’ questions, when reception asked me if there was a problem? “No,” I said and explained what I was doing, but was told that as a guest in their hotel, it was my time to relax, and they would take care of any issues. Now I call that service (but I didn’t abandon my post which is a part of my service!)
After an excellent ‘included’ buffet breakfast and a late start, as the event didn’t open until 11 o’clock, we waited outside in another day of glorious sunshine for our transfer to the show. With a bit of a false start due to heavy traffic we arrived at the show just before noon, and it was just as well, as we missed the apparently very long queues in 87f unsheltered sun. How welcome nonetheless, the air-conditioned interior was after walking straight in – just from the coach!
This was my first world show, and it was everything I had expected, wanted and had hoped for and I was glad for the tour group
It was the culmination of so many long plans, ECT’s and its clients: a barrage of colour, spectacle, splendour, sumptuousness, extravagance; all of that and any amount of rhythm, balance and harmony, scale and texture!
The interior was vast, but seemingly low ceilinged as it didn’t feel cavernous, but the ‘lighting’ was generally non-existent other than the spot lights onto the arrangements, so maybe the ceiling was up there in the darkness. I make a point of this because the darkness was really that on occasion, a presence of impenetrable black, and the illumination from said spot-lights was incredibly isolated and focused, usually directly above the arrangements or angled side-on, and this darkness added to the air-conditioned cool also. In fact, some of our clients found it so cool they had to go outside to warm up! But none of this proved a problem and the temperature maintained the absolute crispness of the flower displays.
Each class was well labelled and well thought out
There were a wide variety of classifications giving rise to many and varied interpretations and disciplines, and happily, each arrangement seemed to have ample space to be ‘seen’ and ‘breathe’. Britain did well when it came to awards, with numerous ribbons or ‘mentions’, but I am told that the USA swept the board, the judges preferring a more ’structural and statuesque’ composition rather than Europe’s more intricate technical work. When I say Europe, I guess I really mean Britain. It was actually an American that put this to me, and who am I to argue?
The Best in Show was a hanging decorated open orb, but somehow, an entry by Alan from Northern Ireland – a similar open orb decorated with orchids, ‘did it’ for me more so. Nearby was ‘the peoples choice’ winner, likewise another hanging open orb decorated with a half swan/half dragon, but the whiteness of its wings and scale somewhat over-powered the arrangement in my opinion. Close your eyes and then open – the first thing to dominate your sight were white swan-like feathers, not flowers or structure. The ‘stones’ class, and likewise the ‘wind’ class were exceptional, with a wonderful Wind piece by Dr Christina Curtis who used 250 folded aspidistra in her composition quite apart from the flowers. All flowers, for all the exhibitors and competitors were locally sourced. This was my first chance to witness or experience work from further afield, and the arrangements from Japan were as spectacular as I had expected, but those from Pakistan were in a class of their own. What a treat!
But another treat was to catch up with so many friends and clients from my previous tours with ECT. Some were exhibiting whilst others came to view like my own group. And if we saw, you can bet we all judged! And isn’t that a part of the fun? Discussing what was there, who won what and why … and who didn’t and why? Discussing the merits of an arrangement is like discussing a wall-hung art gallery painting, there is so much to learn through interpretation and yet more to discover in a piece through technique. How these flower artists pull it altogether is a bewildering mystery, but that’s what draws us, no? It was lovely to catch up with Christina C. Sandie B. Pat and Jean two friends from Cheshire NAFAS, Tan and Chris, Elizabeth R with James and Alan, Sheila H, and the Fleet 1 ( you know who you are ) to name but a few. Great to meet Stephen from Brighton. I shall be looking out for his work at the Nationals in Torquay.
The food, so often at big events was a tricky and over-priced affair, but the Seaport Centre café and bar across the road made a welcome retreat, and the Seven-Eleven convenience store next door, a cheaper option to that available in the show.
I was wowed by the show, and the wow factor hit the moment you entered the door
As I said, this was my first World Show, but if I am going to carry a wow comparison around it my head to beat each time, nothing comes close to the WOW I felt walking into the banqueting room at the NAFAS Nationals gala-dinner in Coventry. That was something else altogether, and I must say Boston WAFA didn’t quite hit that ‘spot’, but it was exquisite in its own right. The combination of colour/spot-lighting/darkness and cool gave the event an ethereal, other-worldly effect of pristine perfection. No flaws could be hidden: this was the best to be seen. I truly loved it!
At 17.30 our coach came round to the front of the Seaport Centre to transfer us back to our hotel and to an evening free of care except to decide where to eat. But ECT’s package contained two days at the WAFA event, so the morning found us somewhat huddled under the hotel canopy to escape the scorching sun, and off we went for another day, again until 17.30. Those with a practical eye, surveyed only half the show on day one, and were ready for the second half today. The less patient like me managed to squeeze it all into one!
Sixteen of my group were travelling onwards as a part of ECT’s optional package, for a few days in New York and then home from JFK; and others New York and on to Washington for an extended break. I went off today to secure their onward train tickets for departure Monday, had a good ‘recky’ to see how the Boston’s South Station worked and then back to the hotel via China Town and several pancake rolls, joining the group for hotel transfer at 17.30.
And so ended two days, Thursday and Friday at such a first class event
I take my hat off to the very hard working organisers for bringing it all together! The next couple of days were given over to everyone doing their own thing; some to the blown-glass flower exhibition at Harvard University, others to the glass collection at Boston’s wonderful Natural Science Museum. A number took boat tours out from Boston Harbour Long Wharf to go whale watching off Nova Scotia, or Sunset Evening Cruises across the harbour to see Boston’s skyscrapers illuminated at dusk and the night sky. A great number took the Boston city and harbour sightseeing tour on amphibious Ducks, and others found the sun on Boston Common irresistible. No small number found their way to the world famous Cheesecake Factory, but I couldn’t possibly say who! It was all just lovely!
An unexpected treat for some was that on the day of our arrival, Wednesday, Boston’s ice hockey team The Bruins won the ‘cup’ for the first time in years. It meant that on the Saturday the team made a lap of honour type parade through the city. The city officials secured 24 buses and the aforementioned amphibious Ducks for the parade. And it was just about everything ‘American’ I could have wished for. An estimated 1 million people turned out to see the parade pass through the city. Before the team laden coaches passed, one player to each vehicle and each with a copy of the cup to hold aloft, music buses ran ahead pumping out high volume music to a sky adrift with yellow and black tickertape. The police on massive polished motorbikes cavalcaded the procession through barrier-lined streets as the masses roared their team in a frenzy. Absolute magic, a moment never to forget!
Monday, our day of departure, came around soon enough
I met with the group largely over breakfast or as I ‘lurked’ around the lobby and bar. I went to the station with the group going onward to New York, to make sure everything was straightforward and to wave them off, and then after some last minute shopping in Massey’s it was time to pack my bag and be down for our transfer to the airport. Mr and Mrs A. took the optional ECT excursion to Niagara Falls; others were staying on a few more days in Boston too, but at 16.30, with a much smaller group than with which I arrived, we made our way on the arranged transfer to Boston Logan airport and thence home.
Another team I have to take my hat off to is ECT’s office staff. They really worked so hard to get this tour organised and planned, and timed its many variants to faultless perfection. Every transfer was prearranged and carried through; every ticket for the show and trains duplicated just in case of losses. Precision and thoroughness – well done all.
ECT’s CEO Theresa, has been realising and fulfilling customer’s dreams and holidays since 1993 and the experience and expertise shone through. Nothing was left to chance: every ‘T’ crossed and ‘I’ dotted all the way, with daily support and communication with the office. That is why I solely work for ECT, the leading company in group travel. The others just don’t cut it! HAT’S OFF!