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Prima Donnas of the 74th Annual Camellia Show

Prima Donnas of the 74th Annual Camellia Show

“I think they all should be winners,” says Felisa Castillo, looking out at tables holding the more than 2,000 camellia flowers that filled the Santa Clara Community Recreation Center, 969 Kiely Blvd., for the 74th Annual Camellia Show Feb. 21 and 22. The show, co–sponsored by the Camellia Society of Santa Clara County and the City of Santa Clara Parks and Recreation Department, is one of the top camellia shows in California.

“It’s the first time I’m here, and I’m absolutely amazed at the number of different blooms and the beautiful, creative way the society has shown them off,” says Gretchen Fry. Her husband, Paul Fry, is busily snapping pictures of the pink and white prima donnas.

Ten teams of accredited judges–38 in all and coming from Los Angeles to Auburn–had the challenging task of choosing the best blossoms to receive top awards of donated “trophies” such as crystal bowls and decorative ceramic dishes. The blossoms are judged on quality, color, correct form, size of flower–which varies from under 2 1/2″ in diameter to 8″ dinner plate size – freshness and total beauty compared with other blossoms of the same variety.


“Each flower represents a lot of tender loving care and hard work. Judging them makes you appreciative of each one and what it took to get it to the show,” says show co–chair Bill Allman, adding, “Camellias are for fun!”

Some of the top awards are made in honor or memory of Society members and friends. The Best Collection of Nine Blossoms Tom Sparacino Memorial Award went to Don and Joan Lesmeister from Carmichael.

“It means a lot to have a collection in honor of my [late] husband,” says former Santa Clara City Manager Jennifer Sparacino. “We came to the show every year. He would be thrilled that this award is in his name. I am.”

Prima Donnas of the 74th Annual Camellia Show

“The thing about camellias is that once you get started growing them, you and your family get hooked on them,” says Annette Jester from Milpitas. Her father, Jack Hillan, is a former Society board member and the designer of the table layout and camellia category layout that is used each year to organize the show. Jester’s daughter, Barbara Valiando, wrote a history and training manual for the Society as a college project in 2007.

The Best Blossom Originated in Santa Clara County trophy, awarded this year to Mr. and Mrs. Robert Ehrhart, was donated by Hillan in honor of his late wife, Elsie Hillan.

“We’re looking forward to our 75th anniversary next year and want to showcase our history,” says John Mendoza, III, society president and chair of the annual spring show.

This is a free event!

** Nearly 3,000 Camellia blooms exhibited.

** Entry blossoms from all over Northern California.

** See 75 major exhibitor’s blossom entries.

** Tiny miniature blooms as well as dinner plate–size reticulated camellias to fit any size garden or patio will be on display.

** Both novice and camellia growers can submit blooms for competition.

** We encourage children to bring flowers for competition.

** Support for novice flower entrants, with supplies provided.

** Camellia plants for sale.

** Educational Lectures & information available.

** Public welcome to take photos

For information about the Camellia Society of Santa Clara County, which meets monthly September through May in Santa Clara, visit


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