Fear and Loathing at the Flower Show - Rob Felt

The bucket-sized flower pots in front of the parking deck security booths were overflowing with plastic representations of nature's true glory, and I wondered if all the botanical fanatics headed to the Southeastern Flower Show would take offense at that.

Parking my car, I inhaled the rest of my Diet Coke to force down the Ibuprofen, multivitamin and expectorant pills that I needed to shake the first signs of an oncoming cold. This could get rough: old ladies, society types, bonsai trimmers... anything could happen.

I crammed into a freezing elevator with a dozen elderly women and was immediately overtaken with the scent of perfume. It was that certain old lady perfume that, I think, comes as an annual gift with the AARP magazine.

Breaking out of the metal trap and onto the floor of the Georgia World Congress center, I detached from my new friends and headed for the information table. I was going to need credentials, because if something was going down, there would have to be pictures to use in court later.

Pinning the media tag to my chest, I got my gear together and headed down the escalator to the main show floor. About halfway through the ride down, the scene really hit me.

It was wild, man. The whole place was crawling with people streaming from booth to display to presentation in a living mass of botanical worship. They were plant-loving zombies.

That's when the Ibuprofen kicked in.

I went from light-headed to pleasantly light-headed as I stepped off the escalator and made a bee-line for a group of large flower arrangements. Dozens of people walked slowly past each one, "Ohhh-ing" and "Ummm-ing," whichever was more appropriate. The arrangements were elevated and lit like individual alters, each representing a sacrifice to a different god.

Spotting a line of people, I assumed they must be waiting for something worthwhile, so I attached myself to the end of it and stood there. A woman walked past me in a purple muumuu with thick-rimmed black glasses on, discussing with her friend the advantages of one strain of roses over another. I think she was quite mad.

The line led me to a small patch of grass, surrounded by native plants and bisected by a gravel walkway that confined the line of people I was now a part of. We had all driven downtown, paid to park, paid to get into the show, and then waited in line to see a small lot that looked exactly like someone's front yard?

I had to get out of there.

Hurrying past a wall of photographs of the same kind of flowers that were in real-life arrangements two booths away, I spotted a group of mannequin heads adorned with elaborate floral hats. They were arranged in a circle, so anywhere you stood near the collection, one of the heads was staring out at you.

That's when the expectorant took hold.

It was too much, too many people and flowers, pollen found its way to me and I sneezed, reeling back towards the retail section of the show. Garden gnomes, wind chimes and gazing balls melted together before my eyes as I headed for the door.

Returning my press card to the information booth, I thanked the man behind the counter and leaned in, warning him to be careful.

Back in the natural sunlight, I was able to stop swaying long enough to find my car and make it back to the interstate.

Thank goodness I got some evidence of the whole thing. I have a bad feeling someone may end up needing it.

Rob Felt is the photographer for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or rfelt@henryherald.com .