Miami’s Royal Poinciana Fiesta to celebrate 75th Anniversary

The Tropical Flowering Tree Society (TFTS), dedicated to the promotion, propagation, and preservation of tropical flowering trees, presents the 75th annual Royal Poinciana Fiesta, June 1-4.

The Royal Poinciana Fiesta, Miami’s oldest festival, has added new events to this year’s four-day festival to help commemorate its 75th anniversary.

The festival begins with a luncheon, art show and Musicale on Friday, June 1, 11:30 a.m., at the Coral Gables Museum, 285 Aragon Ave. Tickets are $25 per person and are available by calling Lynda at 305-441- 8589. This new event is sponsored by Coral Gables Garden Club, Coral Gables Music Club, and the Tropical Flowering Tree Society.

A tree planting with TREEmendous Miami is scheduled for, Saturday June 2, 8:30 a.m., with participants meeting at the Coconut Grove Metrorail Station, SW 27th Avenue and US1. All volunteers, 18 years of age and older, are welcome to help plant flowering trees along US1 to beautify the city. For more information about the tree planting call Steve Pearson at 305-233- 3619.

On Sunday, June 3, join the Trolley Tour to see the spectacular blooming Poinciana trees in Coral Gables and Coconut Grove. Trolley Tour departs at 1 p.m. from The Kampong, 4013 Douglas Rd. in Coconut Grove. Gates open at 11:30 a.m. The South Florida Woodturners are providing a handcrafted, turned bowl made from Poinciana wood for a silent auction. Bring your own brown bag lunch and take self-guided tour of the Kampong. Cost is $25 per person; $8 for Kampong only. Reservations are required, Call Carol at 305-258-1086.

The four-day celebration wraps up on Monday, June 4, with the Fiesta at 7 p.m. at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, 10901 Old Cutler Rd. in Coral Gables, with hors d’oeuvres and cocktails, and jazz by Joe Donato.

The 2012 Royal Poinciana Fiesta poster artist, Lisa Remeny, as well as artists Pauline Goldsmith, Linda Apriletti, Debra Cortese, and others will be showing and selling their Poinciana-inspired art. The Fiesta will conclude with the presentations of college scholarship awards to the Royal Poinciana Queen and her Court, and the Larry Schokman Book Award. College scholarships to the Royal Poinciana Queen and two princesses are based on an application, essay, personal interview and school recommendations.

Guests are invited to join a tram tour of Fairchild. TFTS members are free; $5 per person for non-members. No reservations are required.

The History of the Royal Poinciana Fiesta in South Florida

The Royal Poinciana Fiesta began in 1937 as a celebration of the blooming of the magnificent Royal Poinciana trees, introduced to Miami by Dr. David Fairchild, founder of the Office of Seed and Plant Introduction of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, DC.

One of oldest of these trees is planted at The Kampong, where he and his wife, Marian Bell Fairchild, youngest daughter of Alexander Graham Bell, built a home and garden. The Kampong now is one of four gardens of the National Tropical Botanic Garden.

Although the Royal Poinciana trees (Delonix regia) are native to Madagascar, they are endangered in their native land as they continue to be chopped down for firewood and the land is cleared for agriculture. Here in South Florida, we plant them and celebrate their beauty with the Royal Poinciana Fiesta, sponsored by the Tropical Flowering Tree Society in cooperation with The Kampong of the National Tropical Botanic Garden.

The Royal Poincianas reach their peak of bloom during the month of June in South Florida. The colors of their blossoms range from the well-known crimson to shades of orange, yellow, gold and even white.

No one is sure when the first Royal Poincianas, also known as the flamboyant, the flame tree and the peacock tree, were planted here in South Florida. According to Larry Schokman, director emeritus of The Kampong, there are more Royal Poincianas here than in Madagascar. They were a favorite of the early settlers. David Fairchild planted Royal Poincianas along Brickell Avenue in 1922. They made great shade trees for cooling the air below their branches, at a time when air conditioning was unknown.

July 20, 1937 was declared to be “Royal Poinciana Day” by Miami Mayor Robert Williams. The first official “Poinciana Festival” took place the following year, 1938. In later years, motorcades were organized, speeches given and bands played.

In 1940 the first “Royal Poinciana Queen” was chosen. She was Virginia Allen from the University of Miami. During the 1940s seedlings of Royal Poinciana trees were distributed to the public. For some years there was an organization that sponsored the festival, and then the Committee on Beautification and the Environment took over the sponsorship and changed the name to “Fiesta.”

The Tropical Flowering Tree Society now sponsors the Fiesta and the Scholarships given to the Queen of the Poinciana Fiesta and two princesses to help local students with their college expenses. Today, the Fiesta activities educate the public about the Royal Poinciana as well as other flowering trees.

The Tropical Flowering Tree Society (TFTS) was founded in Miami, in 1988, by a group of flowering tree aficionados. The non-profit group, with members from around the world, is dedicated to the promotion and preservation of tropical flowering trees. Membership is open to like-minded individuals interested in collecting, developing and spreading the word about tropical flowering trees.

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