City Officials Happy with Valley of Flowers Weather, Attendance, and Activities

The St. Mark's Church float.

The St. Mark’s Church float.

By Mark Bretz

Florissant City officials were very pleased with the Valley of Flowers Festival this year. Although last year’s festival was plagued by cold and rainy weather, this year’s festival benefited from mild spring temperatures and sunny skies.

Thousands of people, many of them families with young children, came out throughout the weekend to sample a wide selection of food from vendors at the food tent on the grounds of the Eagan Civic Center as well as at Knights of Columbus Park in Old Town. Visitors also enjoyed a wide selection of carnival rides and booths and an entertaining array of acts for children.

A special bonus this year was the addition of four free performances by the popular Nino the Clown and his Zoppé: an Italian Family Circus, who brought their own, 500-seat big top tent to the Eagan Center grounds, set up adjacent to the food court.

“The Valley of Flowers Festival in Florissant traditionally kicks off the festival season in the greater St. Louis metropolitan area,” said Florissant Mayor Thomas Schneider. “This year, the sold-out performances of Nino the Clown and his circus, the wonderful Children’s Celebration of Performing Arts, the new family-only rules at the Knight’s grounds and the great weather for our entire festival and parade all combined for a grand slam for our 52nd annual festival.”

Gary Gaydos, director of the Florissant Civic Center Theatre, was delighted with the results.  “We were overwhelmed by the response of people to Nino the Clown’s return to St. Louis,” said Gaydos. “All four of his performances were filled to the brim, not even one seat left.  It was wall-to-wall people.

“Nino loved being here,” added Gaydos. “We hope that he has found a new home here in Florissant.” Gaydos said that the Florissant Civic Center Theatre was able to  bring Nino to the festival with support from the Regional Arts Commission and the Missouri Arts Council.  “We received a festival grant from them, and couldn’t have done this without them.”

Gaydos also noted “the team effort of all city employees, the hard work of our employees behind the scenes that makes Florissant a better place to live.” And the immense success of Nino’s circus helped across the board with other activities, according to Gaydos.  “All boats rise with that attendance,” he said. “The food tent was swamped with happy people and vendors as well.”

New family-only rules, instituted for the 2013 festival by Mayor Schneider with input from Florissant Police Chief Tim Lowery and his Command Staff, the Knights of Columbus, the Valley of Flowers Festival committee and local businesses, also contributed to the positive impact of the event. Due to inclement weather that hampered attendance at the 2013 event, this year’s festival marked the first true test of the family-only rules.

“We wanted this to be a family event and we got that word out,” said Col. Lowery. “We had no problems, no fights and no disturbances on the Knights of Columbus park grounds.  It was a joint effort with the Knights, the Valley of Flowers committee and us.  We enacted some rules and regulations that made the festival go very well.”

Lowery, while not having specific numbers, said “I thought it was one of the best-attended festivals in the last 10 years. I know that the vendors at the Knights of Columbus Park had cooked more food by Saturday than they had for the entire previous year.” He noted that the City of Florissant had 12 uniformed officers, plus a lieutenant and a sergeant, on site at the Knights fairground, plus two Parks Department police at the Eagan Center.

Todd Schmidt, director of Florissant’s Parks and Recreation Department, was pleased as well. “From our standpoint it went very, very well,” he said. “We could not  asked for better weather. As far as the public, everyone was behaved and the turnout was very good.  It never got so crowded that it was upsetting people, just a steady flow of people the whole time.”

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