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AFE at AIFD: A Whirlwind Floral Experience

AFE Communications Coordinator Gracie Alvarez had the chance to travel to Chicago for the American Institute of Floral Designers (AIFD) Symposium over the Fourth of July weekend! While there, she visited the “Bringing FFA to AIFD” group, viewed main stage showcases from world-renowned designers, and participated in the PFDE test. 

Renee’ Potter, Arizona Retail Florist Travel Grant Recipient

Renee’ Potter, our 2023 Arizona Retail Florist Travel Grant Recipient, used her grant funding to attend this year’s Symposium. Renee’ Potter is the owner of Fred’s Flowers in Tempe, AZ. Renee’ was able to stay for the full Symposium and had this to say about her experience:

“The AIFD Symposium was great as always! I was inspired by the mainstage design programs. There were lots of hugs, laughter and comradery reuniting with floral friends I only see once a year. Meeting new industry members from around the country and the world is unique to this annual event. Networking at the Partners Showcase and viewing everyone’s stunning displays is always one of my favorite days at Symposium. The two formal dinners are always fun and delicious! Especially this year with a themed dinner on the final night — Who doesn’t love a good costume party?!?” 

To learn more about the Arizona Retail Florist Travel Grant and apply for next year, click here. Applications are due by October 1st of each year. 

Bringing FFA to AIFD

AFE helped fund this year’s “Bringing FFA to AIFD Symposium” through one of our educational grants. This is the first time FFA students have been able to attend in person since before COVID-19. Gracie had the chance to meet the students and help during their hands-on workshops throughout the week. 

“These students are the next generation of our industry, and it’s our job to support and empower them as they grow in their skills,” Gracie said. “It was great to see them learning new techniques, asking questions, and being immersed in our industry.”

This year, FFA students from Shafter High School in California, Southern Alamance High School in North Carolina, Big Walnut High School in Ohio, and Silsbee High School in Texas were in attendance with their advisors. Some of their hands-on workshops included creating unique flowers to wear with Lesleighan Cravens, designing spiral bouquets in an armature with Lisa Belisle, and making boutonnieres with Ron Mulray. 

We love any opportunity to support the next generation of floral, and this event is a perfect example of that. To learn more about our educational grants, click here. 

A Flower-Full Experience

While at AIFD, Gracie also had the chance to volunteer in the design room, view Main Stage showcases from award-winning designers, and participate in the PFDE test (Professional Floral Design Examination). Some of the featured designers at this year’s Symposium included Charlie Groppetti, David Beahm, Jenny Thomasson, Ty Leslie, Jackie Johns, Lottie Nys, Laura Dowling, Per Benjamin, Andie Muller, Jorge Uribe – and many more! 

Prior to joining the AFE team, Gracie worked for four years at Tiger Garden Flower Shop in Columbia, Missouri. While there, she designed arrangements for large events, weddings, and daily shop orders, as well as doing large on-site installations. Since then, she has enjoyed freelancing for flower shops. After spending the last few months practicing and honing her skills for the PFDE, she finally had the chance to take the exam for the first time in Chicago.

The PFDE includes a 4-hour, hands-on exam where candidates design arrangements for five different categories. Candidates who pass the exam are inducted into the American Institute of Floral Designers at the following year’s Symposium. 

“It was incredible to be surrounded by such talented floral designers from all over the nation,” Gracie said. “It was certainly a learning experience that I will never forget. The PFDE is a test of your creativity, ability to work under pressure, and dedication to your technique — and there were no two designs in that room that looked the same by the end of it.” 

What a busy and flower-full week! Check out more photos of the event below.