Helen Young: president of The Wondai Garden Expo Committee.
Helen Young: president of The Wondai Garden Expo Committee. Tobi Loftus

Over 25 years in the making

WHAT started out as a quaint local market run by the Lions Club back in 1993, has transformed over the past 26 years into the biannual Wondai Garden Expo we all know and love.

The Wondai Garden Expo now attracts over 120 exhibitors and2000 visitors twice a year.

It is known for being a gardening, home and outdoor living event featuring plants, tools, garden furniture, household products, crafts, clothing, health and well-being products, and fresh produce.

The Wondai Garden Expo committee president Helen Young said this event is no "tin pot” market.

She said it can and will keep up with the "big boys”, and believes this was proved by the expo recording it's second largest attendance ever when the dates coincided with the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers last spring.

Ms Young has been involved since the get-go.

She was initially one of the first stall-holders and has now been a committee member for the past 20 years.

"The Garden Expo came about to fill a gap in the market,” Ms Young said.

"Back in the early 90s there were some good established local markets and the market stall business was becoming stronger throughout the region.

"It became evident that the region could justify a dedicated garden market and the local Lions Club were pivotal in getting it off the ground.”

Back in 1993 Ms Young was selling geraniums, ferns, begonias, and chrysanthemums at the very first expo.

The event has slipped through a few pairs of hands over the years. Having been managed by the Lions Club, Wondai Garden Club, and Council. Until an official Wondai Garden Expo Committee was formed.

Ms Young said it became clear pretty early on that if the expo was going to compete with some of the larger garden shows and attract the crowds, it needed to step up and meet the quality and expectations that these visitors were accustomed to.

"We started being more selective in what we wanted in stallholders and provided suggestions as to how they should present their products in order to attract visitors to their stands,” she said.

"The professionalism and quality of the stalls started to improve and people put in a lot of effort to decorate and present their products in line with the season.

"This helped to enhance the reputation of the event and soon we had commercial nurseries getting involved as well as some well known garden brands. We now have over 50 nurseries represented.”

"The event became so popular that we decided to do a second expo, which took place in Spring. We have now successfully run the Autumn and Spring events for over 10 years,” Ms Young said.

The most common feedback the committee receives is the expo has a welcoming, country feel to it. While the event is large enough to take up the whole sports ground, it still involves the whole community.

"The expo has a strong community feel, rather than a commercial feel, I think that is something that can only be gained by coming into a small community like Wondai and experiencing its country hospitality,” said Ms Young.