PLY OF THE NEEDLE: 46th annual cactus show and sale blooms strong in Aurora this year


AURORA | It can be precarious maneuvering between large swaths of people in any situation, but throw cactuses into the mix and things can get a bit sticky.

The thorniest thing at the the 46th Annual Colorado Cactus and Succulent Society’s Cactus and Succulent Show and Sale in Aurora last weekend was waiting in a long line to pay.

Customers weaved through thoughtfully queued tables, all filled to the edge with cactuses and succulents, with carefully chosen maneuvers holding boxes of plants that will soon be new roommates.

After decades at the Denver Botanic Gardens, the 46th annual event was forced to change locations this year because of construction around the botanic gardens.

In most situations, a change in venue nets a drop in attendance.

The move to Aurora was the opposite. With more than 1,200 pre-sale tickets sold as of the eve of the event, the expected turnout is the largest some volunteers have seen.

With a line out the door and down the sidewalk of the Summit Event Center, 411 Sable Blvd., at times the building had reached its capacity.

During the two-day event, more than 4,000 people took to the tightly filled room – where one wrong move could result in some newly acquired and unwanted perforations.

A major element to the boost in attendance this year is the types of plants being sold at this show.

“It helps that cactus and succulents are so popular,” said Sara Randall, president of the CCSS and co-chair of the annual sale and show.

Popular they are. Garden Center magazine reports that in 2017, succulents and cactuses were the leading trend across all regions of the US and Canada, increasing in popularity by 10 percent from 2016.

Randall gave a rough estimate of $20,000 more in gross earnings this year as compared to last.

With profits made from the event, the CCSS puts that money back into the society for plant conservation and education.

There were more than just succulents and cactuses at the show. Other trendy plants were also for sale, such as the sansevieria, or snake plant, and the zamioculcas, or ZZ plant.

Picking a new pokey friend can be overwhelming. Too much of a good thing isn’t always good when you get home with a disappointment.

If help was needed, there was plenty of it at the show. Unsure of what you wanted or what would work well with your light and lifestyle are easy questions for most of these experts to answer.

The majority of the members of the CCSS, who were most of the volunteers at the show as well, have been members for more than 10 years.

This year’s show was not just a celebration of plants, but of friends, too. Longtime member Scott Carnahan was back at the show this year, after having missed last year due to a battle with cancer.

Carnahan has been a regular fixture at the show since 2003, potting plants at the show for buyers and adding a soft touch to the cactus world.

“It’s about more than just the plants this year,” Randall said.