PHOTO: swans and floodingPHOTO: sandbagging the Esplanade

Dear President's Circle Members,

Last fall, I jokingly suggested to the staff that we each do a rain dance to help ease the drought. We certainly got more than we wished for this spring, dance or no dance. Remember September 2008? We had flooding similar to last month’s, and we closed for more than three days! Not this time—we knew we had vendors, donors, and visitors to serve during our 13th Antiques & Garden Fair, and serve them we did.

The inundation brought challenges to everyone involved, but the way it was handled brought no complaints—only praise and thankfulness. As the water rose, the Grounds Department crew donned waders and pulled benches out of the North Lake, and hauled sand bags to strategic locations. Partytime–HDO Productions provided the spacious and sturdy tents that kept the vendors and their wares dry, and the Garden’s hardworking custodial staff mopped up as needed. The many vendors demonstrated fortitude and, often, a sense of humor during the four days of the event. Meanwhile, the Glencoe Public Safety Department kept everyone safe and provided welcome support.

PHOTO: Parking lots

During the Fair’s Preview Evening on Thursday, April 18, members of the Construction and Maintenance Department rearranged the electricity supply to the Rose Garden tent so that the event could proceed safely. The valet shuttle provided by Sidney’s Services was extremely helpful; afterward, when the van drivers needed guidance delivering guests to their cars, Development Department staff helped provide the door-to-door service. Photos of the Preview Evening offer ample evidence that the event was a great success—in fact, more than 600 guests came, raising $250,000 for the Garden’s conservation, education, and research programs. I applaud the Preview’s intrepid co-chairs, Kimberly and Randy Burt, Peggy and Jack Crowe, Kathy and Chris Deveny, and Kate and J.T. Fitzgerald. Click here to see more photos of the flood.

The beauty and excitement of the Antiques & Garden Fair remained undiminished throughout the weekend, and I’m grateful to the many visitors who braved the weather to join us. The event’s success was due in large part to the hard work and determined spirit of co-producers Cathy Busch, Susan Canmann, Jen Kasten, Donna LaPietra, Jane O’Neil, and Peggy Swartchild, and of artistic director Bill Heffernan. Stella Show Management responded ably to every contingency conceivable, and the lecturers, who had to deal with delayed or canceled flights, persevered with grace and patience. Landscape designers Craig Bergmann Landscapes Design, Inc.; The Organic Gardener; Maria Smithburg/Artemisia and Manfredini Landscaping & Design; Mariani; and William Heffernan Landscapes created spectacular, mood-elevating indoor gardens. I’d like to extend a special thank-you to sponsors BMO Harris Bank, American Airlines, Beam, Bonterra Organic Vineyards, Jewell Events Catering, Plante Moran, The Scout Guide, Skinny Pop Popcorn, and space519.

I would also like to commend Harriet Resnick, vice president of visitor experience and business development; Jodi Zombolo, director of visitor events and programs; and Sandra Alexiadis, director of events and board operations, for their leadership in planning and overseeing the Fair. Additionally, the gatehouse crew exemplified professionalism and flexibility as they endured downpours on Thursday, alternating periods of rain and hail on Friday, and cold, windy weather on Saturday and Sunday to direct drivers to parking outside the flood zone. Throughout it all, the Information Systems staff kept phone lines open, while the Garden’s audiovisual experts ensured that the lecturers’ presentations could be seen and heard. Thank you to everyone who played a part in the success of this most challenging Antiques & Garden Fair to date (maybe there is something about the number 13)!

Now, finally, the weather is cooperating. The Chicago Botanic Garden is at its spectacular springtime best, and I hope to see all of you here in the coming weeks, enjoying the proliferating blooms, warm temperatures, and very welcome sunshine.

Sophia Siskel
President & CEO
Chicago Botanic Garden