Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

Take A Look Back At AmeriFlora, The Iconic Horticultural Event Of The 1990s

AmeriFlora ’92 was an international horticultural extravaganza that unfolded right here in Columbus, and people are still talking about it today.

The whole event (and I mean it was a WHOLE event) kicked off on April 20 and ran until October 12, 1992, drawing in folks from all walks of life. With a jaw-dropping budget of $95 million, a crew of over 200 dedicated full-timers, and a whopping 5.5 million visitors, AmeriFlora was an epic celebration of all things horticultural.

The stage for AmeriFlora was none other than Franklin Park, and at its heart, the majestic Victorian conservatory. This architectural marvel served as the centerpiece of the exhibition, inviting visitors into a world of floral enchantment.

But AmeriFlora’s influence extended beyond Franklin Park. The event prompted a $12 million renovation and expansion project of the Franklin Park Conservatory, a lasting gift to the community that would continue to flourish long after the exhibition had ended.

Leading up to the grand event, Columbus buzzed with anticipation. The city rolled out a literal carpet of flowers, a massive Belgian floral carpet, on the Ohio Statehouse lawn. This vibrant tapestry was woven together with blossoms from 15 nurseries in Belgium, setting the stage for what was to come.

Aerial views of Franklin Park during Ameriflora ’92. Photo via CML

AmeriFlora opened its doors with a star-studded flourish. Notable figures such as Bob Hope, President George H.W. Bush, First Lady Barbara Bush, Gov. George Voinovich, and former Columbus Mayor Greg Lashutka graced the opening ceremony with their presence. It was an auspicious beginning for the first international flower show held in the United States.

As a kid, I had the privilege of attending the exhibition, and the memories of that magical experience have stayed with me. The 1990s came to life with all their glory—the hairstyles, the fashion choices (fanny packs included)—it was like a time capsule in itself.

The horticultural exposition itself was a marvel. Nearly 20 nations participated, and the exhibition featured not only stunning gardens but also restaurants, pubs, international shopping, theaters, and even an antique carousel. One of the standout attractions was the Old World Rose Garden, boasting 130 varieties, including the official Barbara Bush Rose.

Ameriflora franklin park conservatory
via Facebook

The AmeriFlora International Amphitheater hosted a televised special featuring Bob Hope, Dolly Parton, Michael Feinstein, Boyz II Men, and comedian Rita Rudner. Titled “Bob Hope’s America: Red, White and Beautiful – The Swimsuit Edition,” it aired on NBC on May 16, 1992, capturing the hearts of an estimated 30 million viewers.

By August 10, 1992, an impressive 1,225,000 people had visited AmeriFlora, and even First Lady Barbara Bush couldn’t resist a second visit on September 17, 1992.

To cap off this incredible journey through time, there’s one more piece of history—NavStar ’92. A permanent sculpture by Bexley artist Stephen Canneto, it was created for AmeriFlora and includes an actual time capsule set to be opened in 2092.

sculpture franklin park
via Facebook

In essence, AmeriFlora was so much more than just an exhibition; it was a celebration. As we look back, the memories, the beauty, and the legacy of this event continue to bloom, much like the gardens it showcased. AmeriFlora ’92, you’ll always have a special place in our hearts.