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45h Camellia Show attracts enthusiast from near and far

People came from as far away as Ohio and South Carolina to seeand be a part of the Brookhaven Camellia Society’s 45th annualCamellia Show Saturday.

The event, held at the Brookhaven Recreation Department,showcased blooms from all over the South, from South Carolina downto Florida, and from Texas to Louisiana to Alabama.

Local Camellia enthusiast Shirley Estes won the Don Estes Awardfor Best Lincoln County Bloom for the second year in a row. Shesaid it was quite an honor to win again the award named for herlate husband.

“I think he’s probably up there smiling,” she said. “It’s reallysweet to win two years in a row.”

Estes was among several local Camellia growers at the event, butthere was a strong out-of-town contingent as well. Her friendClaudette Shelfer came from Houston, Texas to be a part of thefestivities.

“It’s the people,” Shelfer said. “They’re always welcoming, andit’s fun to come here. Everyone has a good time because thecompetition is tough, but it’s not ferocious.”

Camellia Society President Homer Richardson said he often showspeople around Brookhaven, as it is a certified retirementcommunity, and that they often ask him about the bright flowersthat bloom in the cold months in Brookhaven.

“I had a couple from Maine ask me the other day, ‘What are allthose plants? Those are not roses?'” he said. “And they’re so easyto grow. That’s part of why people love them so much.”

Vincent Ciolino, of Covington, La., said he’d been involved withCamellias since he was a young boy.

Now at age 67, Ciolino still enjoys showing them. He saidBrookhaven’s show is always a fun stop.

“The people are all so nice, and there’s great hospitality, goodfood and good company,” he said.

Bob and Faye Kessner of Fairborne, Ohio read about the CamelliaShow in the newspaper and thought it would be fun to get out andsee the sights. Bob’s mother, Naomi Kessner, has two Camelliabushes of her own, though none of the Kessners entered blooms inthe contest.

“As many times as we’ve been down here to visit, I’ve never beento the show,” he said.

Richard and Nancy Ballew, who have ties to the Moak’s Creekarea, made the drive from Aiken, S.C., for the first time thisyear. They said it was something they’d always wanted to do andwere glad to finally have the chance.

“They used to have it on the first Saturday after Thanksgiving,”she said. “That’s when they have the Chitlin Strut in SouthCarolina, and we always rode in that instead.”

Richardson said the Ballews had informed him of their coming byphone.

“I got a call,” he said. “He told me that they’d be down if hiswife thought she had some blooms ready.”

Camellia Society Treasurer Mike Jinks said the Ballews set a newrecord for the show.

“They came from the farthest anyone’s come to be in the showbefore,” he said.

And the Ballews did pretty well for themselves, too, they said.Nancy said they were taking home 11 blue ribbons, five reds and ayellow.

The weather has been quite a factor, show officials said, as ithas fluctuated between warm and cold in recent weeks.

“We still had lots of blooms in spite of the fact that theweather has been peculiar,” Estes said. “Some of our blooms arestill in tight buds, which means we’ll have a gorgeous spring ofCamellias.”

Show Co-Chairman Lynn Richardson said the freeze had affectedsome of the flowers for the worse.

“If we had a category for brown blooms, we’d have greatcompetition,” she said laughing. “If the weather would have beenbetter we would have had a lot more flowers.”

Awards Table Chairwoman Geri Jinks said in spite of the weather,the turnout was still a good one, with just over 700 bloomsentered.

“We’ve got a good number, especially considering the recentfreezes,” she said. “It’s been a great show and it’s come togetherbeautifully.”

Lincoln County area winners announced Saturday included:

* Lisa Little – Small Grower Japonica runner-up

* Natalie Herndon Howard – Small Grower Best Tray of Three

* Bruce Groth – Small Grower Best Bloom

* Shirley Estes – Don Estes Award for Best Lincoln CountyBloom

* Homer Richardson – Best Unprotected Tray of Three

* John Paul Smith – Best Unprotected Japonicus

The recreation department will be open Sunday from noon to 4p.m. for anyone who wants to see the blooms and the awards theywon.

“We’d love to have people come take a look at the blooms onSunday, too,” said Homer Richardson. “We’ll have people here whocan answer questions and tell them more about the flowers.”

Estes said part of the fun of the event is the interaction notonly with each other, but also with spectators.

“We’re really trying to encourage locals to come out tomorrow,”she said Saturday. “The blooms and awards will still be out, andthe coffee and cookies are always on.”