Tending the Flower Show
Marie Huenefeld is a behind-the-scenes star of the Cincinnati Flower Show

By Joy Kraft

Marie Huenefeld, 68, admits she’s not much of a green thumb, limiting herself to container planting. But when it comes to the annual Cincinnati Flower Show, April 17-25, she’s got her finger in all the pots as the go-to person for local and national media.

“She’s the consummate publicity pro,” says Jeane Elliott who worked with her for years directing the traffic of photographers and reporters.

“She never wants to call attention to herself, and you won’t often see her in photos. That’s because she’s the one standing behind the photographer or holding an umbrella over the videographer, sloshing through puddles to capture the perfect moment.”

Those perfect moments are often hard to come by thanks to Cincinnati’s flighty spring weather and the required instant transformation of a park site.

“It always seems like a miracle,” says Huenefeld, “especially when you walk through the tents the day before and it still looks like chaos. But somehow it always gets finished” despite the snow, sleet, rain and high winds that are often part of the equation.

Huenefeld, who’s been with the show 19 years, credits the almost 600 volunteers who grab shovels, tote plants, track deliveries and often keep animals at bay. Because the show has always been in a park (including Ault Park and Coney) wildlife gets a free pass, including raccoons that stole into the tent and chomped through the corn-kernel covering of a car, part of a “green” exhibit by the Cincinnati Parks. Another year, a mother robin set up her nursery and laid eggs in the center of an exhibit.

Huenefeld is on site before sunrise every day before and during the show, which was lucky for Spencer Christian, who was in town one year for “Good Morning America.” “He arrived in his limo at 4 a.m. and security wouldn’t let him in,” she says.

But the Flower Show is not the only bloom in her volunteer bouquet. She cut her organizational teeth with the Southwest Ohio Easter Seals for 12 years. And when not holding her clipboard at the Flower Show, she’s on the Mariemont School Board, presiding over the Cincinnati Therapeutic Riding and Horsemanship Center in Milford, which works with special-needs children and adults, or planning the Cincinnati Antiques Festival, held in October at the Sharonville Convention Center and benefitting Convalescent Hospital, part of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

“I like being busy and I like to help, seeing something from start to finish and knowing it produces wonderful results,” she says.

“Why not?” is her question when asked why she does so much.

“I don’t understand why everyone is not out doing this – the more the merrier as far as I’m concerned. Some garden, some golf. But I want to be busy using the skills I have.

“Until I wear out, that’s the way I’m going to live life.”