GLENCOE, Ill. (January 26, 2012) — For the third consecutive year, the Chicago Botanic Garden set an all-time attendance record in 2011, generating 953,864 visits, representing a 5.4 percent increase or 49,000 more visitors than 2010. This number equates to a 29 percent increase since 2009. During 2011, the Garden experienced three record-setting months: August was the highest attendance month ever in the Garden's 40-year history with 134,049 visits; October had 97,289 visits, and December saw 70,509 visits. The Wonderland Express winter exhibition exceeded 2010 attendance by 15,000 people, with overall attendance reaching 65,000.
Located in Glencoe, IL, the 385-acre Garden features 24 formal display gardens and four natural areas, including the 100-acre McDonald Woods, the 15-acre Dixon Prairie, the Skokie River Corridor and 60 acres of garden lakes. It is home to the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Plant Conservation Science Center and the Joseph Regenstein, Jr. School of the Chicago Botanic Garden.
The Chicago Botanic Garden is one of the most visited public gardens in the United States, and is a preeminent center for plant conservation science research and education. It is only one of 17 public gardens accredited by the American Association of Museums, recognizing its living collection of 2.5 million plants. The Garden's membership is comprised of 50,000 member households, one of the largest memberships of any public garden in the world; members enjoy free parking and unlimited admission 365 days a year.
The organization embarked on its second ten-year strategic plan in 2009. Dubbed "Keep Growing," the plan sets annual goals and benchmarks for the four operational areas of the Garden - Gardens and Buildings; Marketing and Visitor Experience; Science and Living Collections and Education and Community Programs. "As we begin the third year of the 'Keep Growing' strategic plan, demand for the Garden has never been stronger, and our relevance and impact have never been greater," said Sophia Siskel, president and CEO of the Chicago Botanic Garden. "Our members and visitors have come to rely on the Garden as a place to enjoy and gain knowledge, a respite from a busy day, or a place to find comfort and peace. We believe that people live healthier, better, and more satisfying lives when they can create, care for, and enjoy a garden."
Other highlights from 2011 include:
- Plant conservation and science staff conducted fieldwork and museum research throughout the United States and around the world. Through a grant from the Bureau of Land Management, 99 Conservation Land Management interns were hired and placed in 2011, serving in 12 western states. When combined with fieldwork conducted by Garden scientists, staff worked in Alaska, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, New Mexico, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, D.C., Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Internationally, conservation science staff worked in China, Costa Rica, Fiji, Greece, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Mongolia, Panama, the Netherlands, and the Untied Kingdom.
- The Graduate Program in Plant Biology and Conservation, a partnership with Northwestern University, had 20 Graduate Master of Science students, seven Ph.D students, and graduated seven Master of Science students. Garden staff taught eight courses at Northwestern University.
- Adult Education programs, offered through the Joseph Regenstein, Jr. School of the Chicago Botanic Garden, offered 375 continuing education, certificate, symposia, and conference programs that served 5,319 individuals, making the Chicago Botanic Garden's adult continuing education program the second largest in the country after that offered by the New York Botanical Garden.
- The Garden's community gardening programs grew 35,000 pounds of produce that was sold at farmers markets in Chicago and offered 480 boxes of fresh produce for the Women, Infant and Children's Programs to the Pilsen Wellness Center. Community gardening programs include Windy City Harvest (WCH)- a nine-month organic vegetable and plant production enterprise that provides a certificate in sustainable horticulture and urban agriculture through the City Colleges of Chicago- and Green Youth Farm- a spring/summer/fall seasonal vegetable farming program for junior and high school students. The WCH crew harvested all of the produce used for the Thanksgiving pantry at the Pilsen Center. Fourteen students graduated from WCH in October 2011.
- An internationally-recognized horticultural therapy program offers training and services to people with physical and mental disabilities, both on-site in the Buehler Enabling Garden, as well as at schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and residential treatment facilities throughout the region. In August, more than 300 veterans and military service personnel and their families visited the Garden for the first Military Families Appreciation Day. Conducted in partnership with the USO and funded by the Tawani Foundation, a full day of activities, lunch, and garden explorations marked the Chicago Botanic Garden's increasing commitment to serve the needs of returning Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans and their families.
- 5,000 young people participated in Little Diggers, Weekend Family Classes, Family Drop-In programs, and Fall Bulb Festival activities.
- In June, the Garden was host to the Garden Clubs of America's Show of Summer, an event that occurs every three years and is one of eight shows held throughout the country.
Upcoming special events include the Antiques & Garden Fair in April, A Bloomin' Festival in May, Taste of Mexico in June, Malott Japanese Garden Summer Festival in August, and the Harvest Festival in September. Summer favorites include the World Environment Day on June 2, Model Railroad Garden, Garden Chef Series, Hot Summer Nights, Dancin' Sprouts, Music on the Esplanade; Tuesday Morning Music, The Garden Chef Series, and American Flower Show Series. In winter, the hugely popular indoor train exhibition, Wonderland Express, is an annual tradition. A new event, Lift your Spirits: Craft Spirits Tasting at the Garden, taking place March 8, has been added to the special event line up. The Chicago Botanic Garden is celebrating its 40th anniversary throughout 2012.
The Garden is open daily from 8 a.m. to sunset from Sept. 2 through June 4. Summer hours are 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Admission is free; select event fees apply. Parking is per car; free for Garden members. For information about the Chicago Botanic Garden's initiatives and events, call (847) 835-5440, or visit www.chicagobotanic.org.