A trio of focused, talented young women from Vancouver, Washington, snagged first place honors during a high-spirited student design competition Oct. 5 in Portland, Oregon.
Fifteen high school students competed in the second annual Floral Chopped design competition at Frank Adams Wholesale Florist.
“Our goal was to inspire and excite the next generation to become floral enthusiasts, to work in our industry as designers, wholesalers or growers,” said Scott Isensee, the company’s cut flower manager.
The competition, held just before the Society of American Florists’ 1-Day Profit Blast in Portland, is modeled after “Chopped,” the popular Food Network reality show that pits four professional chefs against each other.
Derek Woodruff, AIFD, CFD, CF, PFCI, of Floral Underground in Traverse City, Michigan, Erik Witcraft, AIFD, a floral designer at Zupan’s Markets in Portland and AIFD’s Northwest Regional Chapter president and former SAF Chairman Shirley Lyons AAF, PFCI, served as judges. Leanne Kesler, AIFD, of The Floral Design Institute in Portland and Bradley Beck, AAF, PFCI, of DESIGN MASTER color tool, inc., in Boulder, Colorado, were emcees. Industry companies representing all segments donated prize money and product, according to Isensee.
For the event, teams of three students representing five high schools competed in three themed rounds — “Christmas Fundraiser”; “Homecoming;” and “What’s Trending: Instagram and Pinterest.” (Students came from neighboring Washington because area public high schools no longer have floral design in their curriculum, Isensee said.)
“This competition is an opportunity for students to see working florists, gathering and dashing with their daily flowers, as they are exposed to the workings of a classic wholesale florist,” Kesler said. “During competition, they have to demonstrate teamwork, time management, and professional application of floral skills. Students participating find that they perform at higher levels than they ever imagined.”
In the end, the team from Evergreen High School in Vancouver, Washington, coached by teacher Beth Thiriot, snagged first place honors, which included a trophy and $400 gift card to Frank Adams to help the students stock their program back home.
“I was pretty excited that we made it to the final round,” said Thiriot. “My students were just over-the-top happy to have won. They were very proud to tell their parents and bring pride home to our school with a trophy. [The competition] definitely opened up a whole new experience to the lucky students that are able to participate.”
Kesler said she was impressed by the winning team’s focus.
“They walked in planning to win in matching attire and achieved their goals,” she said. “Act like a winner, dress like a winner, hang with winners, and you will be the winner.”
Kendra Pearce of Woodland High School in Woodland, Washington, which took second place, said she too appreciated the opportunity to give her students experience outside of the classroom.
“As an educator, any time an opportunity arises that allows students to interact with industry professionals, it becomes a priority,” she said. “The chance to use high-level product and tools, and especially interact and receive constructive feedback from designers and other floral professionals is invaluable.”
Pearce recalled one particular student who sat quietly on the way home and then told her instructor, “That is the best thing I have ever done in high school. Floral is really something I could do.”
Julie Leonard of Mountain View High School in Vancouver, agreed that the interaction among the students and industry professionals was among the “most memorable parts of the day.”
“The kids were on cloud nine that day and in the week that followed,” she said.
While students from Hudson’s Bay High School in Vancouver didn’t win, the result didn’t dampen their enthusiasm, said teacher Steve Lorenz. If anything, positive feedback from the judges fueled the kids’ excitement.
“It was great to listen to them talk about what they would change, improve and do differently,” he said. “This is such a great learning opportunity.”
Mary Westbrook is the editor in chief of Floral Management magazine.