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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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A&M places 2nd at National Floral Design Competition

Photo courtesy of Texas A&M’s Student American Institute of Floral Design chapter

Members of Texas A&M’s Student American Institute of Floral Design chapter include (Front) Blayne Bippert, Nadia Abusaid, Kate Seifer, (Back) Sabrina Chapman, Alise Pruitt, Emily Maldonado and Advisor Bill McKinley. 

The Texas A&M Floral Design Club competed against eight teams from across the country in the National Floral Design Contest in Chicago. The Aggies took home second place and attended a symposium to learn from industry professionals about new techniques, mechanics and flowers.

The American Institute of Floral Designers, or AIFD, is an American organization dedicated to promoting floral design as a professional career, hosting the national student contest and symposium annually. Director of Benz School of Floral Design and Floral Design Club Advisor Bill McKinley said his students better understand the breadth of the floral design industry once they attend the AIFD event.

“Oftentimes, students don’t realize the complexities of what it takes to be a part of the [floral design] industry, all the different levels of skill, but part of the experience I provide them with is the opportunity to see what happens in the back,” McKinley said. “There, in the ballroom-size workroom, where the best floral designers are creating designs. I pair my students with them to see what it all takes from start to finish. The competition is a big part of the event, but the designers and national symposium are what gives the students the best experience.”

Since McKinley joined A&M in 2011, the floral design club has competed in the student chapter of the AIFD contest. Selection of the six club members to represent A&M at the national contest began in April, McKinley said.

“The team is determined by club members, those who have attended my continuing education classes on floral design and students a part of my classes,” McKinley said. “The contest and symposium is our yearly event, but we also do floral design and decor throughout the year, as well as fundraising to attend the national contest.”

The contest portion of the event took place over the course of five hours. Floral Design Club President and horticulture senior Emily Maldonado said the team and its fellow competitors arrived at the contest at 8 a.m., unsure of what floral designs they would be instructed to create.

“We were blind to what materials we were going to use and what the themes the judges were going to give us,” Maldonado said. “We knew the basic structure ahead of time … but it’s not until we go through the door that we see we’ll first be creating a bridal bouquet for a mountain wedding.”

The judges provide the same number of floral materials, general materials and containers to level the playing field for all competitors. Maldonado said the entire contest was a rush.
“We have an hour each to create four floral designs for different categories,” Maldonado said. “Once the judges say go, we start on the first category, work an hour and present our design to the judging table. For the second arrangement, a judge actually watches the assembly … it’s nerve-wracking the first go around, but you understand how it goes after that and get used to the pressure.”

The 2023 competition was Maldonado’s second time competing, as she competed with the floral design team last year in Las Vegas. The contest and symposium traditionally take place around the Fourth of July holiday. Maldonado said the AIFD gave attendees an opportunity to celebrate the national holiday with an extended afternoon and evening break.
After competing in the contest, students attended the AIFD symposium for the remainder of the week, where they learned, hands-on, what new, exciting things are approaching the floral design industry, Maldonado said.

“We attend the symposium to learn about new techniques, mechanics, trends and even new flowers being produced,” Maldonado said. “Different world-renowned floral designers do mainstage programs, build complex structures and talk about them with us. We all have our little notepads and take notes. We modeled and main-staged with a Swedish floral designer. It was a great experience.”

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