The year 1992 marked the 30th Anniversary year of the Naples Orchid Society. The occasion was recognized with a Celebration Dinner and Award Banquet held at the Windstar Country Club on Thursday May 14, 1992—prime rib or baked red snapper were the entree choices. Eighty members and guests attended. In that same year NOS established a “Naples Orchid Society Scholastic Memorial Award” (in memory of Elinor Yocom)—to be awarded to a graduating high school student in Collier County. First recipient was Israel Cruz, Immokalee High School who planned to attend U of Central Florida College of Engineering. Israel received $1000. The President of the Society was Jack Hild. Honorary Life Members were established and the ability to purchase a Life Membership was eliminated. In September the monthly meetings moved from the Depot, on 5th Ave. South to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida on Goodlette Frank Road. The annual dues were $15 for a single membership and $25 for a family membership and the treasury contained $5,421. In 1992 there were five commercial orchid growers in the Naples area that were active in the Society: Gulfshore Orchids (Paul and June Carlson), Jade Orchids (David and Judy White), LeBuff Orchids (Laban and Jean LeBuff), Rum Orchids (Richard & Ursula Malone) and Taylor Orchids (Bill & Joanne Taylor) (in Alva, Florida).
The year 2012 marked the 50th anniversary of the Naples Orchid Society and a Celebratory Dinner was held in Baker Gym at Moorings Presbyterian Church. The dinner was catered by Wynn’s Market. Over 130 members and guests attended the gala event during which there was a silent auction of a number of donated items. The auction raised $3500 which was donated to the Corkscrew Audubon Sanctuary Education Fund. Michael Coronado of RF Orchids, Homestead, FL was the guest speaker. He presented a virtual tour of the 20th World Orchid Conference in Singapore. Michael showed the Society an orchid, registered by Bob Fuchs, named Ascocenda NOS 50th Anniversary. Annual dues were $40 single and $50 for a family membership. There was only one commercial orchid grower in Naples, Jade Orchids (Judy and David White).
During the 90s and “early” 2000s some of the “movers and shapers” of the Society were Laban and Jean LeBuff, Tom and Lutu Coffey, Tim and Gayle Nance, Harry Moeller, Martin Fisher, Valerie Griffith, Nancy and Frank Ginocchio, Norm Dolder, Jan Kadet, Kit Kitchen-Maran. These people not only served as various officers of the Society but were the major forces that continued to shape the Society and maintain its goals and direction.
The Society continued to offer an annual eight-week Culture Class that was well received, except in 1994 when it was “cancelled due to lack of interest.” The Culture Class used “local experts” from the Society to present topics including—What is an Orchid, Pests and Diseases, and discussions of the various groups of orchids that will grow in Southwest Florida. For many years this program was organized and coordinated by Tom Coffey. In 2011 Dick Pippen assumed the role of coordinator and in 2013 the program was reduced from eight weeks to six because the Annual Orchid Show was moved to the end of February.
The major fund raiser for the Society continues to be the Annual Fall Orchid Sale. Plants, donated by members and augmented with the purchase of blooming plants, were sold on one Saturday to the general public. The Sale has always been eagerly anticipated and usually a long line forms before the sale begins.
The “main attraction” of the Society has always been the Annual Orchid Show which is an American Orchid Society sanctioned event. The Shows are usually held in the early Spring in February or March, sometimes in April. The Shows are open to the public for two to two and one half weekend days. Members have prepared floor exhibits, table top exhibits, containers, cut-flower arrangements and entered individual plants for judging. The official AOS judging occurs just before the show opens. Commercial vendors also prepare floor displays and have booths to sell orchids. Traditionally, trophies in the form of antique glass objects with an orchid theme have been awarded to the winners in the various exhibit categories. In 2011 a transition from antique glass trophies to cash awards was created and in the following years only cash awards were made to the exhibit winners. Commercial vendors, however, continue to receive glass (but not antique) trophies. The number of vendors over the years has varied from over 10 to as few as four plus one orchid supply vendor, depending upon the size of the venue. For many years the Show was held in the Depot in downtown Naples, then moved to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. When the Conservancy closed for renovation in 2009 the venue moved to the United Church of Christ on Seagate, and in 2012 to Baker gym at the Moorings Presbyterian Church and eventually, in 2016 to the Naples Botanical Garden. Other earlier venues included Edison College, and Gulfshore Middle School.
The Shows have always been very popular and usually well attended, though the number of people visiting the show varies depending upon the year and other competition during that weekend. Attendance has run as high as over 2, 200 in 1993 to a low of 792 in 2015 to a record high in 2016 of over 3,800. Normally the Show has shown a surplus in the treasury, though in 1998 there was a loss of $132. This loss was recovered by a sympathetic individual who donated $140. The donor could not bear for the Society to “go in the hole.” In 1996 Naples Mayor, Bill Barnett, declared the week of the Show—“Orchid Week” in Naples. The Society rewarded the Mayor with a nice blooming orchid.
The only “downer” in the Show was the year 2000 when the Show was cancelled due to a lack of interest. To compensate, in that year, over 35 members of NOS set up an exhibit at the 55th Annual Miami Orchid Show and took top honors with: AOS Library Gift Certificate, Trophy for First Place in the Display Division, SFOS Gold Medal for Total Display Award, and Special Artistic Award
However, the next year it rebounded and has been going strong ever since. From 2007 through 2011 the Society “teamed up” with the Naples Chapter of Rotary International as co-sponsors of the Show. The Rotarians assisted greatly in soliciting donors for the show. The surplus from these shows was donated, through Rotary to “Laces of Love” a charity that provided shoes for needy children in Collier County. Over those five years more than $20,000 was given to Laces of Love.
From 1992 till the present, the interest in the Naples Orchid Society has been strong and membership has maintained at an average of over 200 a year. Attendance at monthly meetings varies, depending upon the season, from as low as 60 to as high 130. For many years the Society held its monthly meetings at the Depot in downtown Naples (on 5th Ave S) but in 1992 they moved to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida on Goodlette Frank Rd. The Conservancy provided storage space for NOS materials and library. In 2009 the Conservancy underwent major renovations and the Society was forced to move. The Baker Gym at Moorings Presbyterian Church proved to be an ideal site for our relocation.
Storage space for the NOS library and other necessary items has always been a concern. At the Depot storage was in a hard-to-get-to location upstairs. At the Conservancy storage was provided “in a back room” off the auditorium where we had our meetings. At Baker Gym at Moorings no storage space was available so a trailer was purchased to store most items and the Church allowed us to park it at the back of the parking lot. Ted Moore, the librarian at the time agreed to store those items needing “climate control” in his house. In 2012 the Society rented a self-storage unit to house these items.
Early in the history of the Society it was decided to establish a library beginning with the Sanders Hybrid Indices. Gradually other books were acquired until a very respectable library was created. John Kratt constructed a very nice case to house the library and it was “rolled out” for each meeting. Members were able to check out books. Eventually, as the Internet became a significant on-line source of information and orchid hybrid information was available from the Royal Horticultural Society “on-line” as well as from other digital sources such as Wildcat, AQ+ and OrchidWiz Encyclopedia, the library was less and less used by the members and accessibility was difficult. In 2013 the library was donated to the Corkscrew Audubon Sanctuary which was the only organization willing to accept the library and “keep it intact.”
In 1992 the annual dues were $15 for a single membership and $25 for a family. Every few years, as financial needs of the Society increased, so did the dues gradually increase, usually by $5 or $10 increments. In 2017 the annual dues are $40 for a single membership and $50 for a family.
Financially, the Society has usually been able to remain solvent enough to sponsor all of its various activities and even show a surplus. However, in 2004 the Society found itself short of money but fortunately a number of “good Samaritan” members donated significant amounts to make the Society solvent again. These people were recognized with Honorary Life Memberships in the Society. Since that time the Society has continued to remain solvent.
As mentioned earlier, the Society, in 1992, established a Scholarship Fund to award scholarships to a high school student planning to continue their education in college. This was a short term venture, but in 2010 the Society created a Scholarship Program to grant scholarships or internships to college or university students involved in studying native orchids in Southwest Florida. The first award of $2000 was to Danielle Lopes Ferreira, of Brazil who worked with the Atlanta Botanical Garden on a project to re-introduce the Cigar Orchid to the Fakahatchee Strand. Dr. Lawrence Zettler, professor at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois, through his Orchid Recovery Program, has a major, on-going project to study various aspects of the native orchids in the National Panther Preserve and the Fakahatchee Strand in Southwest Florida. We began providing internships to undergraduates in his program from Illinois College who would spend the month of July involved in various studies of the native orchids. As of 2017 we have sponsored at least 12 interns.
So, for 55 years the first Thursday of every month in the city of Naples, Florida has been “Naples Orchid Society Night” and we hope that it will continue for the next 55 years as long as there are orchids to grow, display and talk about.
Richard Pippen President, Naples Orchid Society, September 2016