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Philly Flower Show Organizers Apologize for Opening Weekend and the Hoagie Heard ‘Round the World

After long lines, lackluster food options, and water shortages angered attendees, organizers say “the feedback is not falling on deaf ears”

The opening to the PHS Flower Show, held for the first time in history at FDR Park, with a sign that says welcome to the flower show Philadelphia Horticultural Society

During opening weekend of the annual Philadelphia Flower Show, attendees complained that the show was rife with problems — long, disorganized lines; a lack of water and water refilling stations; and vegetarian hoagies made with microwaved bags of veggies. Combined with a weekend-long heatwave, and baseball and basketball games happening at the same time, many visitors who attended the outdoor event took to social media to demand refunds.

“We hear them,” Blair Cardinal, vice president of communications at Spectra, the show’s vendor organizer, told Eater on Wednesday. “We appreciate all the feedback and we are making tweaks.” In an interview with Jack O’Brien, the vice president of Spectra’s catering arm, and Ken Goldblach, Spectra’s food services general manager, O’Brien expressed remorse to people who had a bad experience with the food and drinks during opening weekend. “The first thing I would say is I would apologize for the experience they had,” O’Brien said. “We were overwhelmed by the response of the people who came in.”

The sheer number of people descending on FDR Park at once led to some quality control issues, O’Brien said, which in turn resulted in the hoagie heard ‘round the world. On social media, attendee Hannah Ryann shared a photo of a $15 grilled veggie sandwich that Ryann described to Eater as tasting “very, very bland and homogenous,” and “like microwaved veggies on bread.” Cardinal said they had spoken with Ryann, wanting to “do right by her.”

“We thanked her for making us aware of this,” Cardinal said. “Thanks to her commentary, we’ve added some new menu items.” Spectra said they have attempted to resolve the water shortage problems, stationing five refilling stations around the park, and introducing more stalls where water can be purchased for $4. Water can be refilled now at the boat house, the member’s lounge, the park picnic pickup area, and both first aid tents.

As for those hours-long lines, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society wrote in a statement to Eater that they are “proud of the achievement of our organization to create a high-caliber show and the ability to present this event to our community during this extraordinary year,” while acknowledging that the bottleneck at the entrance to the show was a problem. “We have alleviated these wait times by opening up more entry points in the venue to our box office area,” Sin Gogolak, director of communications for the Flower Show, said.

For those still interested in a refund, Gogolak offered the following arrangement: “Traditionally our Flower Show tickets are non-refundable,” she said. “However this year we are offering guests the opportunity to re-book tickets for re-entry if they have been affected by a severe weather alert which causes us to close the Show.” More information can be found on PHS’s newly added “We Hear You” page, where attendees can submit feedback about the show — and get in touch to re-book tickets.

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