People raved about last year’s Thursday night social at Motorworks Brewery in downtown Bradenton, according to volunteer organizer Chris Holly. “There was great conversation. The ambience was so nice,” Holly said. “And I didn’t even put that much work into it. I just put the plants on the tables.”
Holly is operations and sales manager at Sandhill Native Growers and Environmental Services, in Arcadia, and treasurer of Florida Association of Native Nurseries. It was his idea, in the first place, to move the Native Plant Show’s Thursday night social from the convention center to the micro brewery. The move was obvious to Holly. “It seems like everybody loves that spot. It’s such a good spot,” he says.
This year’s social will be hosted on the brewery’s outdoor deck, under a gigantic 150-year-old oak tree strung with party lights. The set-up, “a great place for a cocktail and a snack,” Holly says, “not a place to sit down and get served,” encourages mingling. Few industries can boast such an interesting, amiable, conscientious crowd of people as the native plant industry. Holly is looking forward to the camaraderie at the Native Plant Show in general, and at the Thursday night social in particular.
“We’re all really good friends. We care about each other, and we care how our company is run,” Holly says. “There’s no weird type of sales competition among us. If we don’t have a plant in stock, and I know where one is being produced, I’ll give the customer [the other nursery’s] number. I’m just happy that someone is buying a native plant.” At the social, growing methods, new plants, what nurseries need to be selling, and the industry-wide shortage of labor can be discussed over beers and cornhole — a lawn game at Motorworks, almost unaccountably popular among millennials.
“You can stay as long as you want, you can bring your family, you can bring your pet,” Holly says. Plus, microbrews and native plants have something in common. “[Micro] breweries are like the new normal — the newest hippest thing,” and that’s how native plants are,” Holly adds. Motorworks Brewery is at 1014 9th Street West, in Bradenton. It has Florida’s largest beer garden. Show up anytime 6:00-8:00pm. Once again, Sandhill Growers will be providing the plants, and Holly will be arranging them. “We usually use wildflowers for table-top decor,” he says.