Local News

Caladium Festival moves up a month

LAKE PLACID - Last year when Tropical Storm Isaac was threatening Florida, Caladium Festival organizers didn't know until the last minute if Highlands County would face or skirt the storm. As it happens, Isacc missed us, but Florida's west coast was under tropical storm warning ,and rain, winds and local weather warnings on the last day of the three-day festival badly affected attendance that day. "We lost a day," said committee member Terri Cantwell, about that Sunday, even though the general attendance the previous two days had been good. So, when the Caladium Festival committee met after the event was over, the first order of business after that tense week in late August was: Can we move the dates for the Caladium Festival away from peak hurricane season?
There was no opposition to the suggestion, said Cantwell. After last year's close call and at least two years when the festival had to be canceled because of the weather, Lake Placid's iconic event will now be held a month earlier. "It's permanent," said Cantwell, who also is a co-owner of Bates Sons and Daughters, a caladium grower. The three-day festival this year runs July 26-28 in Stuart Park. While a tropical storm is still possible in July, and rain can never be ruled out in the summer, historically, August and September are busier months for storms to form, Cantwell said. "There is no difference in the heat," she said, and the caladium fields in July look as good as they do in August. Event sponsor, the Greater Lake Placid Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Eileen May said before moving the date they first checked with the vendors, the growers and the other groups involved with the festival. So far, May is encouraged by the reception and said the food and crafts vendor spots are sold out and reservations are coming in for the caladium field bus tours. She said she is also expecting to see more children visit since the schools will be out for the summer compared to the past years. While local residents show up at the Caladium Festival, it's also frequented by people from both coasts of Florida. May said she has stepped up advertising in area newspapers and garden magazines announcing the date change. This is not the first time the dates have been moved. They were once held in October, and were moved from late September to August, ironically, to dodge hurricane scares. Festival goers may enjoy less severe weather in July. They may also get more out of their caladiums. One of the popular things to buy at the Caladium Festival are potted caladium plants and bulbs. Buying them in July, instead of August, means people will be able to enjoy the plants for a month more before the advent of the cold season, Cantwell said. Cold snaps can kill the foliage but the tubers survive and grow back in warmer weather, she explained. O