NC Arboretum cancels 2021 Orchid Festival and Bonsai Expo

Press release from the North Carolina Aboretum:

Following discussion and careful consideration with event organizers, The North Carolina Arboretum has announced that both the Asheville Orchid Festival and the Carolina Bonsai Expo will not take place in 2021 due to continuing public safety precautions related to COVID-19. 

The two signature shows are annual highlights for the Arboretum and draw national and international acclaim. For more than two decades, the events have drawn thousands to the Arboretum each year to see their exhibits, presentations and instruction by the dedicated communities that surround these unique and elegant specimens.

Unfortunately, the continued concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic and the risk large crowds present for community spread led to the decision to cancel both shows for 2021. 

“Both of these shows are wonderful events, and their absence will be felt by Arboretum staff as well as the guests who have made a tradition of attending year after year” says the Arboretum’s Guest Experience Manager Mary Rose Ridderbusch-Shearer. “But we understand the need to continue minimizing risk to our staff, guests, and partners. We can’t wait to welcome back our friends and their beautiful specimens when it is safe to do so.”

Both shows were also called off in 2020, on what would have been the Bonsai Expo’s 25th year and the Orchid Festival’s 22nd, as COVID-19 concerns ramped up throughout the community.

Due to these delicate plants’ need for temperate climates, the events are held indoors, which presents its own complications and concerns, and many people who enjoy these annual shows are in high-risk categories for COVID-19.

The decision to cancel was made with vital input from the groups involved in putting on these events. 

“We will miss being able to have the Orchid Festival and meeting all the vendors, exhibitors and attendees” says Western North Carolina Orchid Society President Mike Mims. “But there is just no safe and effective way to hold it this spring.” He said that the WNCOS will continue to explore possible smaller showcases later in the year.

The Arboretum’s Bonsai Curator Arthur Joura says he arrived at the same conclusion earlier this winter. “With the pandemic outlook, the amount of work and organizational effort that goes into this ahead of time, and disruption of normal activity in the various bonsai organizations brought by this pandemic, unfortunately we won’t be in a place by June to hold the expo.”

Traditionally held in October, the expo was moved to June in 2020, but was unable to occur because of the pandemic.

Joura did say he hopes to take this opportunity to look at ways the expo can be revamped and modified in the future.

Despite these cancellations, the Arboretum’s Bonsai Exhibition Garden is open year-round, with the bonsai collection coming back out on display for the season on World Bonsai Day, the second Saturday in May, and the entire 434 acres of permanent garden exhibits at The North Carolina Arboretum continue to be open seven days a week. 

For more information on the Western North Carolina Orchid Society, please visit

For more information about the Blue Ridge Bonsai Society please visit

For information on The North Carolina Arboretum, all of the programs currently available, and upcoming events, please visit

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