First they brought in the sand - all 500 tons of it - then the palms, swamp cedars, reeds, and other greenery. Most of all, they brought in the orchids - thousands upon thousands of these spectacular flowers.
In all, it took three 18-hour days of shaping, contouring, covering, and decorating all that sand before the doors were finally opened to the public. Staging the American Orchid Society's annual show is no small thing.
The just-completed 39th event here was the biggest ever staged. But, say the organizers, it was half the size - a mere dress rehearsal, in fact - for the 11 th triennial World Orchid Conference here, March 5-12, 1984. Make a note of the dates, and if you wish to be a part of the proceedings, start planning now.
In the two years since the last international event took place in Durban, South Africa, the American Orchid Society has been preparing to make the '84 spectacular the biggest, in terms of both registrants and exhibitors, the world has yet seen. Already, the Japanese have sent observers to the United States in preparation for the 1987 event in Tokyo.
Orchid showing, like orchid growing, now is a major feature of the worldwide horticultural scene, and hosting a major event takes several years of planning.
With 30,000 naturally occurring species and more being discovered every year, the orchid is among the most common of plants. Add to that the fact that crosses between the species take place easily; the total in both natural and man-made hybrids is around 100,000.
While the plants themselves range from pleasant looking to very ordinary, the orchid flowers are appraised by many as the most beautiful in the world. Moreover, these delicate-looking blossoms are remarkably hardy, and remain fresh on the plant anywhere from five weeks to several months.
Increasingly, too, the myth that orchids are difficult to grow is falling away. On the contrary, these exotics are relatively simple to grow as houseplants. As a result, home growers of orchids are thought to have at least doubled in the last decade.
It is expected that some 7,000 registrants will attend the conference next year, up dramatically from the 1,000 registrants at the first world conference in St. Louis in 1954.
Every three years a world event is staged under the aegis of the American Orchid Society and the Royal Horticultural Society in London.
The large number of registrants expected next year stems in part from the fact that Miami is easily accessible from North and South America, as well as from both Europe and Africa. Both Disney World and its Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT) are pre- and post-conference attractions, as are visits to the Carribbean islands.
The world conference includes the orchid show, spread over 100,000 square feet of the Coconut Grove exhibition hall, along with meetings and lectures on every orchid-related topic imaginable at the new Miami conference center on the banks of the Miami River. Shuttle buses will connect the conference center and Coconut Grove. The ride will take about 15 minutes.
Any last-minute visitor to Miami will be able to take in the spectacular orchid show simply by showing up at the door, but to attend the conference as a whole involves registering ahead of time.
Special rates at hotels within walking distance of the conference center range from $65 to $150 a day.
For details write: Eleventh World Orchid Conference, PO Box 95-5150, Miami, Fla. 33159.