Watsonville festival highlights flowers, helps state parks

By Calvin Men, Santa Cruz Sentinel

Shoppers browse through a variety of flowers the annual Kitayama Bros. Farms Gerbera Festival in Watsonville on Saturday. (Kevin Johnson — Santa Cruz Sentinel)
WATSONVILLE >> Flowers were front and center Saturday at the sixth annual Kitayama Bros. Farms Gerbera Festival in Watsonville.

Drawing hundreds of people, the festival is a showcase of the flowers grown on the farm, including the gerbera daisy. Proceeds from the event go to support Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks.

“We are so grateful to have this kind of support in the Kitayama brothers,” said Bonny Hawley, executive director for Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks.

The previous year’s events raised roughly $6,000 for the nonprofit to support its work in maintaining and promoting state parks in the county. Funds go to opening new facilities, making sure there are interpreters on hand to lead tours and supporting school field trips, Hawley said.

The day’s event is part of a larger event throughout the region known as the Monterey Bay Greenhouse Growers Open House where many growers open their business to the public.

“Over the years, we saw other greenhouses doing tours and we thought it’d be nice to let people know what we do here,” said Stuart Kitayama, one of the event organizers. “Six years ago, we teamed up with a few other greenhouses and said let’s choose a day in common and open it to the public. And it was amazing how many people came. They were so positive about it and so we kept going.”

The Kitayama operation typically sells its flowers wholesale to companies so opening their doors to the public is a great way to showcase the company. The event allowed visitors to walk through a warehouse where bouquets were packaged, tour greenhouses and make their own bouquets from an array of flowers.

Chris Teuteberg, of Royal Oaks, is a flower grower. He said he likes the exposure the event gives to the floral industry.

“It’s eye opening and gives people a new appreciation for the bouquets they see in the stores,” he said.

Also part of the event was a flower arranging competition that drew 15 competitors and their pruning sheers. The men and women competed in three elimination rounds to create arrangements to wow judges.

Aimee Saunders came with classmates from San Francisco City College’s flower arranging class in the school’s horticultural department. For the first round, the competitors had 15 minutes to pick out flowers from dozens of varieties.

“I think it’s definitely hard. There’s the time constraint. That’s something we don’t normally have,” she said. “We might have an hour or something like that. So it’s tricky to be creative and make sure you have your mechanics secure and solid.”

Her classmate and fellow competitor Young Pak agreed with the challenge of the time limit. Despite taking stock in the flower options for 20 minutes before the competition, she was still nervous.

“I think it’s been very challenging,” she said. “But it’s good to know we can make the arrangements in 15 minutes.”


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