Sunday, June 5, 2011

And so I get quoted in the Wall Street Journal...and Cleveland starts a garden walk!

I was contacted by an AP reporter about garden tourism and the effect of Garden Walk Buffalo as a tourism draw specifically, and garden tours in general. We talked for a bit and I sent her names of other folks that I know are experts in the field of garden tourism (Richard Benfield, okay, so, he's the only one), or are just starting on their own endeavors (the folks from Cleveland's first-ever garden tour). The AP report was picked up by the Wall Street Journal, CBS News, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Huffington Post, Yahoo.com, Seattle Post Intelligencer, NOLA.com and more.

Janet Kious & Bobbi Reichtell, whom I've talked to and traded emails with, are helping to lead the charge with Garden Walk Cleveland. Their tour, to be held on June 25 from 11am-7pm is different than ours in that it features four different neighborhoods, not contiguous, as well as highlighting urban production gardens and urban vineyards and orchards, with a tagline of "Flowers, fruits & farms."

Jan and Bobbi had been to Buffalo's Garden Walk in previous years and had some nice things to say to me, as well as giving Garden Walk Buffalo a shout out on their website. I couldn't be happier that they've taken the idea, customized it for their commuinty(ies) and seem to be doing things right -- not starting off too big; getting lots of hands on deck to help; associating themselves with ParkWorks, an established 501(c)3; and one of the best features -- keeping it free!

I'm only sad that I cannot attend their inaugural tour. That is the day we throw our Garden Walk "Rally Party" for the gardeners on the Walk. It's their chance to pick up Maps, posters and t-shirts ahead of the public.

In the AP article, Richard Benfield estimates garden tourism to be one of the country's fastest growing areas of leisure and recreation, appealing not only to an older crowd that may have outgrown the "roller-coaster scene," but also to younger homeowners in search of landscaping inspiration and to anyone in search of a simple breath of fresh air.

The article goes on to mention Buffalo's National Garden Festival's Open Gardens on Thursdays and Fridays, as well as their Front Yard Garden Contest and its remaking of an entire city block with competing landscapers. Ed Healy of Visit Buffalo Niagara is quoted as saying, ""For people coming a great distance, you have to show them that there are a critical mass of experiences."

I have also talked to people in other parts of the country that are staring garden tours - in New Jersey, Erie PA and some people in South Carolina.

When Garden Walk founders Marvin Lunenfeld & Gail McCarthy started Garden Walk Buffalo with their Norwood Avenue Block Club, I don't think they imagined that in less than 20 years they would have had an influence on garden tours in other parts of the country, inspired by their model. Previously, garden tours showed small quantities of select gardens, generally for a fee, and rarely in an urban setting. Few garden tours can claim to have improved neighborhoods and upped home values, let alone attracting a quarter of attendees from outside their area -- lining up to see gardens, crowding streets, jamming restaurants and filling up hotels.

PR Trak estimates that the AP article's placements are worth $540,000 in media (what it would cost to buy the equivalent advertising space) and have a $1.6 million publicity value. Holy crap.

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