JARS v53n1 - Western Regional Conference, Florence, Oregon

Western Regional Conference, Florence, Oregon
Bob Bell
Florence, Oregon

The Siuslaw, Eugene, and Southwestern Oregon chapters treated the 300 attendees of the Western Regional Conference to three days of variety during the weekend of Oct. 2, 1998. First, there was Friday night registration at the Events Center, after conference visitors had jockeyed for parking spaces with high school football fans enthusiastically descending on Florence for the game at Hans Memorial Field. But once inside and relaxed in the Center's 450-seat auditorium, attendees listened to DeVern Pinnock, Mike Bones, and Dick Cavender welcome them to Florence and the Central Oregon coast and introduce them to Rhododendron occidentale .

Saturday began on a less hectic note. Sharon Collman, Dee Daneri, Eleanor Philp, Herb Gustafson, Lynn Watts, Mike Bones, and Tom Drake shared their special knowledge with attendees at the morning seminars. There was one major disappointment: it was impossible to attend every class in the two-and-a-half-hour time span. Then at noon the cloudy sky opened and Florence was drenched with an inch of rain...just as the two 40-passenger buses took off for Yachats to the north and Charleston to the south. Yet an hour later, the capricious weather changed for the better. The garden and nursery tours, distant and local, revealed the diversity of plant life here in Western Oregon.

The Saturday night banquet, with District 4 Director Mike Stewart as host, featured the presentation of the Society's Silver Medal to June Sinclair of the Olympic Peninsula Chapter by ARS President Bud Gehnrich. Recognition of the conference host chapters and the success of the 1998 new members campaign were among highlights of the banquet. And, of course, no one will forget a surprised Will Smith of the Greater Philadelphia Chapter as he won the raffle prize: a beautiful handmade quilt featuring multi-colored rhododendrons. After dinner, Harold Greer presented his wonderful wide-screen slide show "Rhododendrons & the West: A Love Affair."

Will Smith winner of
rhododendron design quilt
Mike Bones, a member of the Siuslaw Chapter, and Will Smith, a
member of the Greater Philadelphia Chapter, happily pose in front of
the rhododendron quilt Will won in a raffle at the Western Regional
Conference in Florence, Or. Mike, a member of the Conference
Committee, conceived of the idea of asking the women of the local
North Fork Grange #492 if they would make a quilt with a
rhododendron motif. In response, Grange member Edna Steers
designed a queen-sized, hand sewn quilt featuring 48 10-inch square
panels, each of which has three identical rhododendron blossoms
with dark green leaves on a white background. Colors of the blossoms
cover the spectrum, resulting in a highly colorful work of art.
Ten women from the Grange contributed to the project.

Sunday morning featured Bruce Briggs, Jim Barlup, Roy and Evelyn Thompson, Dan Bones and Jim Gerdemann as the roundtable panel. Each member expressed their thoughts on future hybridization goals and shared a question-answer exchange with the audience.

During the weekend, the sale of hundreds of plants, dozens of books, and many unique pens encased in machined rhodie wood helped make this event a financial as well as operational success. Armed with their new "experience" planning a conference, the Conference Committee will compile a guide for any chapter considering the hosting of future conferences. We thank everyone for being our guests. And we invite you to return during the third weekend in May for our annual Rhododendron Festival.