West Miami-Dade

Weekend festival to draw orchid lovers to Tamiami

Every year, members of the local community gather to check out the displays of exotic orchid species at the Tamiami International Orchid Festival.
Every year, members of the local community gather to check out the displays of exotic orchid species at the Tamiami International Orchid Festival. Courtesy of Greg Allikas

Martin Motes has been dedicated to growing orchids for more than 50 years. He started growing them when he was a child. Since then, he has studied horticulture, authored several books about growing orchids and even runs his business, Motes Orchids, in Redland.

“One of the most wonderful things about growing orchids is that it allows people to see positive change in a tangible way,” he said.

Motes, a research fellow at Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden, has helped initiate many orchid projects and events in South Florida, including the launch of the botanical garden’s Million Orchid Project, the Redland International Orchid Festival and the Tamiami International Orchid Festival.

Orchid growers of all skill levels will gather for the 12th annual Tamiami International Orchid Festival on Saturdayand Sunday at the Miami-Dade County Youth Fair & Expo, where they will set up exhibits of their favorite orchids species to sell and compete for cash prizes.

The event includes guest speakers and lecturers who will give lessons on botany in English and Spanish. The festival also includes orchid and other craft vendors.

The festival is sponsored by the major local orchid nonprofit groups, including the Greater Miami Orchid Shows and the Miami Orchid Society. It costs about $60,000 to put together the event each year, according to Motes.

Participants include members of the Orchid Society of Coral Gables, the South Dade Amateur Orchid Society, the American Orchid Society's Florida Caribbean Judging Center, the Coalition on Orchid Species, Miramar Orchid Society, the Asociación de Orquideologia de America, and Orchid Mania, all of whom will be contributing to the staffing of the event and sharing the profits.

The festival hosts about 50 growers from all over the United States and countries abroad, including Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan, the Philippines, Brazil, Jamaica, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Peru. The plants that are displayed in the festival are usually rare breeds or hybrids that are very different from the commercial orchids seen at flower shops and grocery stores.

The different orchid societies enter individual plants and exhibits to compete for ribbons, trophies and the American Orchid Society awards. The public is also invited to bring plants for exhibit and judging on Friday between noon and 5 p.m. All plants entered in the show are eligible for the $1,000 cash prize for Grand Champion and $500 prize for Reserve Champion.

Motes said that the prizes serve as an incentive for amateur growers in the area to promote the industry. There are $100 prizes in several categories and now there is a $500 amateur champion prize.

“The idea is people have these wonderful things in their backyards and we want them out there,” he said. “We want them to feel pride in their accomplishment.”

If You Go

What: The Tamiami International Orchid Festival

Where: Miami-Dade County Youth Fair & Expo Fuchs Pavilion, 10901 Coral Way

When: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 17 and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 18

Cost: Admission is $10; children under 12 are free.

For more information: Visit www.tamiamiorchidfestival.com.