PHILADELPHIA (Reuters Life!) - An international flower show that attracts a quarter of a million visitors is bringing big business, as well as blooms, to one of America's oldest cities.
With more than 60 large-scale gardens and 180 vendors at the 10-acre (four hectare) site, the Philadelphia International Flower Show is billed as the largest indoor flower event in the world.
In addition to luring tens of thousands of gardeners and horticulturalists to the city, the eight-day show generates $61 million, or the equivalent to 628 jobs, according to a new study by accounting firm KPMG.
It also contributes $8 million in taxes to city, state and governments.
"The flower show is one of the greatest boosts to the city, for its spirit, for its reputation, and for its economic well being," said Alan Jaffe, the spokesman for the Philadelphia Horticultural Society, which sponsors the show.
Gregory Mosley, the manager of the "By George" pizza restaurant doesn't need any convincing about the benefit of the annual event that ends on Sunday.
He hired six new workers in anticipation of the increase in customers during the show at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
"We trained them two months ago," he said. Instead of his normal four people behind the counter, 10 will be working during the show.
Paul Steinke, manager of the Reading Terminal Market, said for the 80 merchants in the market the flower show is bigger than the Thanksgiving and Christmas periods.
"Oh my god, we're jammed," said a clerk at a candy shop in the market as she dashed to wait on another customer.
Drew Becher, the president of the Philadelphia Horticultural Society, has even bigger ambitions for the show. Although he has only been at the helm of the society for a year, he believes the sprawling convention center could easily accommodate 400,000 people.
He wants the flower show to be as big an event for Philadelphia as fashion week is for New York.
Jaffe said the idea is to make the show the signature event for Philadelphia, and the premier event of its kind globally.
Expanding the event could also be a boost for the city's hotels, which haven't seen a big increase in occupancy rates during the show.
"That doesn't mean the show is not good for the city," said he said Ed Grose, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association.
For Joan Grusensky, a master gardener trainee from Averill Park, New York, the show was worth the four-hour bus trip from her home near Albany. She was particularly struck by the art work of flowers in the show.
"It's beautiful," she said. "These are my favorite things."