Museum Garden Tour event didn’t wilt under heatwave

By Ken Kellar
Staff writer

It was a blistering hot day, but by Friends of the Fort Frances Museum’s metrics, it was also a successful one.

The group is celebrating their second annual Garden Tour fundraiser, which was held on Saturday, July 3 across Fort Frances. The event was smack dab in the middle of a brutal heat wave, but Friends member Caren Fagerdahl said they are still pleased with the overall turnout.

“It went very well, we sold 44 tickets out of our 60,” she said.

“Word of mouth is starting to spread. We had many repeat visitors and many new visitors. We’re very, very pleased and we hope to do nothing but grow next year.”

While the event came close to being a sold-out show, the trend of increasing ticket sales year over year bodes well for future installations and the Friends’ aspirations for growth. 

The garden tour this year featured a half-dozen different gardens, each with a unique layout and philosophy that helped to show off what capable gardeners in our area are capable of, as well as to share and spread ideas for layouts, plant varieties and artistic creativity.

“The gardens were fabulous,” Fagerdahl said of this year’s group.

“Every one is always so unique. So many of our guests comment on that too, you hear people say ‘oh, I never thought of putting that together, I have to try that,’ or ‘I’ve never seen that plant before.'”

The event was a rain or shine tour, with Fagerdahl having previously explained that only a thunderstorm would lead to a cancellation, but no one could have predicted the unseasonably hot spell that had the town in its grasp that weekend. Still, those who turned out to the garden tour thought well ahead of the heat and had taken appropriate steps to stay safe and cool. The tour itself was also well-suited to keeping things cool.

“Most of the gardens had shade and areas of sun,” Fagerdahl said.

“Guests were really smart; they were wearing hats and drinking lots of water. We had bottles of water at each garden available as well for anyone that had run out. People were amazing at how well they handled the heat, but I think we would have been happier if it had been just a few degrees cooler.”

While both of the garden tours the Friends have been able to put on so far have been under the shadow of COVID-19, the group has both times found creative ways to ensure that interested participants can take the tour safely, and that local gardeners can share the fruits of their green thumbs with others (sometimes literally.) Still, Fagerdahl said they’re hopeful that by next year the pandemic will have worn itself down to the point where such restrictions won’t be necessary, which in turn could mean a significant shake-up for how the garden tour could be run.

“Fewer restrictions could open the garden tour up to more guests,” she explained.

“We’re going to try adding one more garden and see how that goes. We have some gardeners lined up for next year already, and we’re still looking for three gardeners to put on the tour.”

A half dozen gardeners opened their gates to the public, in the second Friends of the Museum Garden Tour. The fund- raiser sold 44 tickets, with organizers hoping to make the event even bigger next year. – Ken Kellar photo

The Garden Tour is also first and foremost a fundraiser that helps to support programming at the Museum, including the SnOasis event and the different workshops that run through the fall and spring. With the province continuing to gradually move towards reopening, Fagerdahl said they are hopeful that the workshops will start back up again soon.

“We tried running some of them online this year and that was a little bit difficult,” she explained.

“But now as things open, we should be able to have in-the-museum workshops again. We’ve missed having them, I know people have missed being able to go to them in person. We had a few successful virtual ones, but it’s not always easy to run those online.”

As the Friends of the Fort Frances Museum close the book on the second garden tour, Fagerdahl said the group wanted to extend their gratitude to everyone who took part in this year’s event.

“We so appreciate our volunteers and the guests that come out to enjoy these gardens,” she said.

“And we so appreciate the gardeners because that’s a huge amount of work. I think every gardener does a lot of work to get their garden ready for the summer anyway, but when you know that you’re going to have 44 visitors coming through, it’s even more work, so we really appreciate all the work the gardeners have gone to to help us raise this money for the museum, and we appreciate all those people who came out and bought tickets. We hope they’ll all come next year and buy tickets, and bring their friends.”