On March 8, Petals for Hope, a non-profit organization, will gift 1,000 bouquets of tulips to women working in nursing homes and women's shelters.

So many wonderful and momentous events have been postponed or cancelled altogether as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, something that has impacted nearly every facet of our day-to-day lives. And with the year-mark of the onset of the pandemic circling, the organizers of San Francisco's American Tulip Day—during which the city's Union Square is filled with 100,000 tulips for the picking—began feeling this acutely; their team needed to come to terms with the fact that their annual in-person event to celebrate the dawn of spring and International Women's Day would look a whole lot different this time around.

bouquet of red tulips on orange background
Credit: Maryna Terletska / getty images

When the team first starting looking ahead to 2021, a virtual event seemed like the safest alternative, and the one way they'd be able to include as many people as possible. But they also knew they'd need help to pull their plans off, especially since they wanted to find a way to continue their tradition of bouquet donation. To make this magic happen, the group partnered with the non-profit Petals for Hope, as well as floral designer Sarah Campbell, the founder of Intrigue Designs (you might have seen her on Netflix's The Big Flower Fight!). "Floral enthusiasts from all around the world began reaching out to volunteer to help make this happen," Campbell shares of the virtual event's conception. "I had never done anything like this before, but I was determined to find a way. I also wanted everyone to participate free of charge."

The big obstacle? Even a virtual event is incredibly costly. "There were expenses around every corner from web development to graphic design to hosting fees and the list went on," she continues, noting that she wasn't sure if the celebration would ultimately be possible. And then, her inbox chimed: Inside it was a message from the leaders within tulip grower and bulb organizations around the country who had taken notice of her idea and wanted to help—and then the European Union agreed to fund all 20,000 tickets. "This felt like a gift at a time when connecting was so necessary. This support was incredible," says Campbell, who reached out to her network to determine a name for this online flower-palooza. The choice was unanimous: They would call it GATHER, something we all sorely miss doing after this unprecedented year.

Organizer Peggy Anne Montgomery, a Garden Media Group account executive and horticulturist, was tasked with researching companies that repurposed flowers, and that's when she came across Petals for Hope, a non-profit that gathers flowers from events to share with those who have been hit by hard times. The tulip growers slated to contribute to this year's festival were thrilled to work their team, notes Montgomery. "When I said we could send out bouquets of 10 tulips, the usual number, they said it wasn't good enough—that they should have 25 stems of the best quality tulips there are to make a fine bouquet," she says. "So, our growers will deliver 1,000 bouquets of 25 tulips to Petals for Hope volunteers in 10 different metro areas across the country."

Brittaney Sard, the founder of Petals for Hope, and her team plan to hand-deliver these bouquets on International Women's Day (March 8) to female healthcare workers on the front lines of the pandemic. "A total of 25,000 gorgeous stems of beloved spring tulips will brighten a woman's day," Sard says. The festival itself will air on March 27 and 28 at www.gathertulips.com; it will be available for viewing from then until six months after the event. Participants can expect to enjoy all the "inspiring and fantastic elements you would see at a live festival," Campbell shares. "Along the way, you will learn a bit about tulip history and care tips to make experiencing these beautiful blooms at home even more special."


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