Philly flower show ends with million-dollar loss

| Sunday, May 19, 2013, 8:30 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA — This year's Philadelphia Flower Show ended with a loss of about $1.2 million, and officials are blaming fears of a winter snowstorm during the week of the show that they say were whipped up by television and radio reports.

The show, which dates to 1829 and has been held in March since the 1920s, usually makes about $1 million in profits for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society that helps pay for urban “greening” programs, The Philadelphia Inquirer said.

Society president Drew Becher accuses radio and television forecasts during the March 2-10 week of the show of “hyping up” the feared storm.

“It was a snow drumbeat, and it was relentless,” he said.

Officials at television and radio stations declined to comment or did not return calls seeking comment, the newspaper said.

Forecasts that predicted 2 to 4 inches of snow in Philadelphia and as much as 8 inches or more in the western suburbs on the show's opening weekend and more to come on the following Friday were unrealized, with Philadelphia recording 0.2 of an inch of snow and a little rain.

Meteorologist Greg Heavener of the National Weather Service in Mount Holly, N.J., told the paper that it was “a botched forecast” but made a distinction between his agency's role and that of local news organizations.

“Our job is to get the information out to the public. We're not a business. We don't make money for our broadcasts,” Heavener said. “They do. They hype it up for ratings and viewership, and all meteorologists kind of take the blame for it.”

Becher dismissed the idea that the drop could be because of dissatisfaction with ticket prices, the British theme of this year's show or any other factor, noting that attendance was up in the previous two years and online ticket sales for this year's show were trending 7 to 15 percent ahead of the year before. He said 60 percent of show visitors are from the Philadelphia area, and many decide at the last minute.

“For a lot of people, it's one of those impulse things,” Becher said. “They get up in the morning, hear the forecast and say, ‘Nope, I'm not going.' ”

Becher said he's scrambling to raise money for the programs and for salaries, filing a claim on the event's insurance policy and seeking money from donors. But he warned that next year's flower show faces possible cuts in programs, staff, pension contributions and other items.

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