The Edgewood Garden Fair made its official debut on May 3, 1967, at the Hall of Flowers in Golden Gate Park. But the idea took root a full year before, when the Fair Founders – avid gardeners, all – first began to organize this ambitious event. In Edgewood Today, Auxiliary President Nancy Maushardt exhorted the Auxiliary to “Get out your trowels and your pruning shears” to help cultivate a garden festival that would celebrate the Edgewood community and support its programs.
“Our aim is to offer fairgoers a wide diversity of items and ideas to bring added beauty to their homes and gardens,” she wrote. “And, of course, all the proceeds will be used to benefit the children of Edgewood.” It is a vision that has remained remarkably consistent through four decades of social and cultural change.
Fairgoers today would recognize many of the elements present at the first Fair. Then, as now, the entire production was overseen by the members of the Auxiliary, from invitations to advertising. Members not only staffed the booths, but stocked them with handmade goods. Auxiliary members wore apple-green aprons as they worked in white latticework booths. The green and white colors were an attempt to capture the spirit of the California outdoors.
The first Fair featured seven booths, including two for the now-familiar Boutique, four for plants, and one for decorative garden items. Featured activities included a lecture by nationally known landscape architect Thomas Church and a picnic with boxed lunches. The Auxiliary compiled a Bay garden calendar for the program insert.
Under the supervision of the Auxiliary, Edgewood’s children were encouraged to participate by growing flowers in container gardens, building birdfeeders, and painting pictures to be displayed at the Fair. They also helped set up booths at the Hall of Flowers.
The first Fair netted $5,000, and was such a success, the Auxiliary immediately began to plan an encore. In the 1985 issue of Edgewood Today, Auxiliary President Mrs. Richard Olness said, “The phenomenal thing about the Garden Fair is that is has changed so little through the years. Those original members laid the foundation well.”
In the 70s, the Country Kitchen developed, featuring the Auxiliary’s homemade mustards, chutneys, and chocolate sauce. In 1978, Nancy Maushardt introduced the Gazebo, a dramatic array of rhododendrons and azaleas grown especially for the Fair. This display became the Garden Fair’s centerpiece through the late 80s. The early 70s saw the addition of Preview Night as a way to invite spouses to to join in the fun.
The 80s brought the inclusion of carefully chosen exhibitors, offering goods ranging from jewelry to artwork. In 1994, the name was changed to the Edgewood Fair. Then-Fair Chairman Donna Griffith was quoted as saying, “We’re so much more than a Garden Fair that our traditional name no longer describes us adequately.” The Fair included a raffle and an afternoon tea. In 1999, the Fair moved from the Hall of Flowers to the Golden Gate Club in the Presidio.
Demetra Bowles, 1990 Fair Chair, may have summed it up best when she said in Edgewood Today, “I learned that the magic begins to be created the day after last year’s fair, and that the magic is in each one of us who contributes from her heart and helps sponsor the community of Edgewood children.”