Your reporter just returned from a foray in Western New York State. Those who have experienced Buffalo/Niagara and close by Canada (Niagara by the Lake is unique) understand why an eight hour drive is worth the effort, time and cost.
One of our main reasons to visit was to find out more about Buffalo's very successful garden walk/National Garden fesitval and how those efforts might apply to our fair city. Buffalo has a population of about 500,000 and a market area of about one million. Hartford has maybe 120,000 souls with a market area (depending on what you count) of about a million and a half. So any comparisons are just that taking scale into account.
Garden Walk Buffalo was the start of their efforts - nineteen years ago a modest tour of 29 neighborhood gardens. Now, on the last weekend of July, three hundred and fifty gardens are open and this is the largest effort of its kind in the United States.
Jim Charlier, event co-chair, says "We use Garden walk proceeds to fund neighborhood beautification projects. It's a great way to rejuvenate streets, reengerize neighborhoods, increase property values and improve Buffalo's image". In addition, restaurant and hotels benefit, and local shops, especially allied garden centers, gather new customers. They sell tee shirts, caps, tote bags, posters, etc... that get spread all over promoting Buffalo and it's garden theme.
Then, along came the "National Garden Festival" about five years ago to spread the theme over a six week period. The festival ties in with AAA tours to bring in visitors from Ohio, Canada and much of N.Y. State. Ed Healy, V.P. of marketing for Buffalo-Niagara said "my neighbor's garden was involved and he was amazed to get visitors from 10 countries and 40 states!"
Now, can Hartford duplicate (at our scale) something similar? Why not? We have parks, great architecture, Knox, great front and back yard gardens. Tie in attractions and architecture and who knows? An effort toward such a goal is starting, watch this space for details.