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Tony Abruscato Chicago Flower & Garden Show

“I joke that I’m singlehandedly bringing back the terrarium.” –Tony Abruscato


Coming Up Roses

By Ann Marie Scheidler

Portait by Lucy Hewett


Tony Abruscato restores the historic Chicago Flower & Garden Show to its legendary floral splendor.

In 2011, when Tony Abruscato made the life-changing decision to purchase the Chicago Flower & Garden Show, he knew exactly what he was doing. “This is the 170th year of the show,” says Abruscato, executive director of the nonprofit Chicago Gateway Green and the son of a Chicago arborist. “It’s one of those events where if it ceased to exist, people would be kicking themselves that they didn’t do everything possible to keep it going.”

Presented in partnership with Mariano’s, it’s the romantic notions surrounding the show that first caught Abruscato’s attention. “I would hear stories from people about how they attended the show as a child, and now they are taking their own children and making new memories,” Abruscato says. “It’s a tradition that generations have been able to share and enjoy.”

Abruscato and his lean team oversee the nine-day show that completely transforms Festival Hall at Navy Pier. This year, visitors will walk through life-sized gardens, participate in DIY workshops, enjoy garden-to-table cooking presentations and, in what is bound to be a highlight, enjoy a Cubs logo comprised of 4,000 chrysanthemums imported from South America.

“Our goal each year is to inspire, educate and motivate our visitors to go home and make the most of their green spaces,” he says. “And if we happen to capture their hearts along the way, even better.” Evening in Bloom gala March 17, 6pm, tickets $150; garden show March 18-26, tickets $5-$19, 600 E. Grand Ave., 312.241.1250 

Originally published in the March issue of CS