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The City of Thomasville recently received the Georgia Downtown Association’s 2021 Award of Excellence for Promotion: Premier Special Event, in recognition of its landmark 100th Annual Rose Show and Festival. The Georgia Downtown Association (GDA) is a non-profit association made up of more than 150 downtown professionals that seek to promote the economic redevelopment of Georgia's traditional downtowns. The award was presented at the GDA’s annual conference.

According to April Norton, Director of Downtown & Tourism Development, this award specifically recognized the City’s ability to create a plan that was fitting of a centennial celebration while also overcoming the challenges of executing the event in the midst of a pandemic. “The Rose Show and Festival is very special to our community. It is a long-standing Thomasville tradition that brings people from all walks of life together. While the pandemic definitely created some challenges for us this year, our team pivoted and worked to develop a plan that gave our community a special and memorable centennial celebration,” said Norton.

Norton said that it was important to honor the traditions of the festival while also creating safe experiences for the community during a pandemic. “In order to comply with social distancing guidelines, our team created new interactive experiences, such as the re-imagined historic parade experience, which helped keep our visitors and community safe,” she said. “The re-imagined experience allowed us to celebrate this time-honored event in a fashion that properly celebrated the legacy of the parade and its floats, the Rose Queens, and the people that have invested their time and energy over the last one hundred years into the Rose Show and all of its festivities.”

Collaborative efforts, partnerships, and civic engagement helped make the vision of the centennial celebration a reality. “Viewing stunning displays of hundreds of hand-cut roses at the Annual Rose Show, Standard Flower Show, Civic Garden Club Show, and Orchids on Parade is one of the most highly anticipated traditions of the weekend,” said Norton. “However, this year’s celebration further celebrated roses with specially selected artisans at the newly introduced Rose Fest Market and the return of the popular Roses in Restaurants experience hosted by several downtown restaurants. These events also allowed for socially distanced enjoyment of all things roses.”

“This award belongs to our entire Team Thomasville staff and Thomasville community because we all had to come together to make this experience what it was,” said Sheryl Sealy, Executive Director of Marketing and Customer Services. “It is a tribute to the hard work and leadership of our downtown and tourism staff, who together with many departments and many hours from Team Thomasville, were the muscle that pulled this historic event together. This was is an example of Team Thomasville at its best and I am very proud of their efforts and the GDA’s recognition of our centennial event.”

In addition to being a time-honored tradition, the 100th Annual Rose Show and Festival also created a significant economic impact in Thomasville at a time when the tourism industry and many small businesses were suffering due to the pandemic. “Guests travel from all over the southeast to enjoy the Rose Show and Festival,” said Norton. “The ability of the City and our community to come together to proceed with this historic event in a modified manner during a pandemic allowed visitors to enjoy our award-winning downtown and surrounding areas. Guests shopped in our stores, dined in our restaurants, and stayed in our hotels. This was an important event for the continued economic recovery of our community.”

“The collaborative spirit and openness to innovation that the City and Thomasville as a whole demonstrated allowed guests to attend this historic event in a modified and safe way,” said Sealy. “Together, we celebrated 100 years of roses and set this cherished celebration on its path towards another 100 years. It truly took a village to make this centennial celebration so special.”

April Norton, City of Thomasville Director of Downtown & Tourism Development, and Matthew Hill, President GDA Board of Directors

Pictured above, from left to right: April Norton, City of Thomasville Director of Downtown & Tourism Development, and Matthew Hill, President GDA Board of Directors