As coronavirus cases increase, colleges have cancelled in-person classes, museums shut their doors to the public, and other local events have come to an abrupt halt.
But one gathering was still thriving, at least until 6 p.m. on Friday: The Boston Flower & Garden Show.
The event, hosted at the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston, began Wednesday and, as of Friday morning, was planning to remain open through March 15. Those plans changed when Gov. Charlie Baker issued a ban on gatherings of more than 250 people in Mass. Friday afternoon.
Celebrating the dawn of spring, the show normally attracts around 60,000 people over the course of its five days, director Carolyn Weston said.
Weston also said she and other organizers had been checking in with Mayor Marty Walsh’s office to confirm attendees’ safety, and in light of the ongoing health concerns, finally decided to cancel the remaining two days Friday afternoon.
“Because ‘the show must go on’ is part of our DNA, the decision to cut the show short didn’t come easy,” Weston said in an update to the public. “Our focus remains with the health and well-being of all those involved in this enduring event. We have already been in communication with our exhibitors and partners and thank them for all their support and contributions.”
As the show continued for the day Friday, Weston said hand sanitizing stations were spread throughout the trade center and workers were monitoring restrooms to continually disinfect public spaces.
An emergency medical technician “who is versed in the appropriate handling of health-related issues” also remained onsite, according to a Facebook post.
“We don’t want to diminish anything that’s going on in the world right now — we know that a lot of you wish you could be here but for concerns about your health and well being don’t feel safe,” organizers said. “We know that a lot of you have already or plan to visit the show at some point, and we can’t tell you how much we appreciate your support.”
The highest number of those visiting, at 26 percent, are aged 55 to 64, according to a demographic chart listed on the show’s website. The second highest percentage of patrons, at 22 percent, are 65 and older.
Yet Weston said other ages have stopped through, too, and organizers had urged older adults to make the decision to come based on their own health history and comfort.
She said Thursday’s attendance was spare, “noticeably less” than usual, but not empty.
The show is normally most crowded on Friday and Saturday, she said, and from what her 170 vendors have told her, those showing up are long-term fans and customers.
“They’re doing what they need to do to continue an annual tradition and I applaud them,” Weston said.
She hoped to remind the public that after 5 p.m., tickets to see the show are reduced and most of the heavy crowds will have fizzled out in the final hour.
Many people turned to Twitter, offering mixed feelings on the show’s initial decision to continue to host a large event amid the pandemic.
One user, Miles Howard, put the event in context of the St. Patrick’s Day parade.
Boston: We’re canceling the St. Patrick’s Day parade out of an abundance of caution
Also Boston: The Flower and Garden Show (50K expected) is ON https://t.co/VdNEhgD54U
— Miles Howard (@MilesPerHoward) March 12, 2020
“Boston: We’re cancelling the St. Patrick’s Day parade out of an abundance of caution,” he wrote. “Also Boston: The Flower and Garden Show (50k expected) is ON.”
Another user, Brenda Lee, chimed in.
@bosflowershow Boston has closed colleges. The St Patrick's day Parade has been Canceled and The Boston Marathon will probably be canceled. State of Emergency has been declared . Sports teams are playing with No Fans seated. Yet you keep the Flower show ? 😔🤦 #irresponsible
— Brenda Lee (@bixoooo) March 11, 2020
“Boston has closed colleges. The St Patrick’s day Parade has been Canceled and The Boston Marathon will probably be canceled,” she wrote. “State of Emergency has been declared. Sports teams are playing with No Fans seated. Yet you keep the Flower show?”
While the flower show will carry out its final hours Friday night, Weston said it serves as a distraction.
This year’s theme was a “Garden Party: Celebrating Friends & Family.”
She said the colorful set-ups offer a happiness people need as more COVID-19 cases are popping up in the news.
“We may not all agree on everything,” organizers said, “but I think we all can agree the flowers are one of the world’s best medicines, and we hope it will bring some healing and calming vibes to everyone in this difficult time that we’re all going through.”