Beach Landmark Blossoms with Orchids, Food and Entertainment

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Historic Bonnet House estate will be bustling with activity this weekend during the 9th Annual Orchid, Garden and Gourmet Food Festival. Credit: Bonnet House Museum & Gardens

Bonnet House Museum & Gardens will be in full bloom this weekend as the historic landmark hosts its 9th Annual Orchid, Garden and Gourmet Food Festival.

More than 3000 orchid enthusiasts and plant lovers, in general, will have the opportunity to vividly experience and purchase from hundreds of colorful and fragrant varieties of orchids, exotics and tropical plants, herbs and fruit trees from more than 40 local growers.

According to Bonnet House marketing manager Monica Estevez, visitors may also buy divisions of rare aromatic orchids originally grown by the estate’s owner, Evelyn Bartlett, “a piece of history you can take home.”

In addition to flower displays, food vendors will offer a diverse selection of delectable bites ranging from pan-Asian to traditional American dishes and Trader Joe’s will be sampling many of their popular products. During the lunch hour, live music will be performed by Nicole Noel and Chance Meyer on Saturday and Cliff Holdren and the Bluegrass Players on Sunday.

The museum and gardens welcome more than 85,000 visitors each year, but the festival is the only weekend guests are allowed to wander the buildings and grounds on self-guided tours. Docents will be available in each room to describe the history and contents.

Behind “the big gate and walls” on Route A1A on Fort Lauderdale Beach, Bonnet House & Museum is one of the region’s hidden treasures, said Estevez.

Early settler Hugh Taylor Birch purchased the Bonnet House site and the property across Sunrise Boulevard that would become Birch State Park in 1895.

He gave the Bonnet House property to his daughter Helen and her husband, Chicago artist Frederic Clay Bartlett, as a wedding present in 1919. The newlyweds began construction of Bonnet House in 1920, completing a winter retreat where Frederic could pursue his artwork and Helen could compose music and poetry.

Tragedy struck in 1925 when Helen died from breast cancer and Frederic’s visits became sporadic until 1931 when he married Evelyn Fortune Lilly. Together, Frederic and Evelyn embellished Bonnet House with the decorative elements and art that have survived.

Bartlett died in 1953, but Evelyn continued to return each winter. In 1983, she gave Bonnet House to the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation, ensuring the survival of the estate as a cultural and educational landmark.

The 9th Annual Bonnet House Orchid, Garden and Gourmet Food Festival will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5 and Sunday, Dec. 6 on the grounds of Bonnet House Museum and Gardens, 900 N. Birch Road in Fort Lauderdale. Admission is $12 for members and $15 for non-members. For tickets and more information, go to BonnetHouse.org.


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