I’ll meet you at the giant bok choi.

This past Sunday we went to the International High-Tech Vegetable Exposition in Shouguang, a city within Weifang.

Weifang is kind of like Los Angeles in administrative structure: it is both a city and a county. The county area is fairly large so it is important to realize when making plans that when something is advertised as being “in Weifang” it might actually take a good long time to get to it (another example of this was my outing to the Kite Festival).

That was certainly the case for the Vegetable Fair. We, my son and I, were fortunate to be invited to attend with a family. It took about three hours to get there from the downtown area where we were staying, that included picking up another family member along the way, traffic tie ups, parking and getting from the parking lot to the fair itself.

The fair was not a thing I can just say “it was like …” because it was like some things I am familiar with but also had some uniquely Chinese elements that are outside my experience.

First of all it was sort of like the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle; there were display type gardens, information booths and a marketplace. The Shouguang High-Tech Vegetable Exposition dwarfs the show in Seattle. The area covered has to be at least four times that of the Seattle show. It happens in a specially built venue that includes several very large green houses. The “high-tech” in the name is deserved: there is an elaborate system of irrigation, piping and structural support of the plants. The display areas were of several different climate types. Like the Seattle show there were vendors only marginally related to the topic of vegetable gardening. Some of the things being sold were, to my mind anyway, uniquely Chinese: a woman selling large radishes along with bottled water and other drinks; booths where they made and sold paintings and calligraphy; a booth of leaves and flowers with which to make tea…

On the grounds there were a large number of stalls selling food, drink and festival type souvenirs for the young and young at heart. We had lunch in a tented area with low tables and geezer stools (not sure what the real name is my son and I named them that because you so often see older men sitting on them in parks or on the street, playing Chinese Chess, selling birds, fixing bicycles or just passing the time of day). It was fun to watch noodles being made fresh and some of the barbeque-ers danced as they worked.

Many of the displays consisted of pipes that had holes in them for growing vegetables, formed to look like various buildings or other items; some examples: the Eiffel tower, a windmill, the Great Wall, a ship, a helicopter. In other places they had made frameworks to support pots and made landscape elements out of things like pepper plants, kale or cabbages. The walkways were arbors supporting vining plants like squash, melons, cucumbers…in one area they even used sweet potatoes. Some of the overhead vegetables were so large that they had ties on them for extra support.

All-in-all a very interesting and impressive event. The event was well attended, we were definitely not there alone! It was fun to see so many Chinese families out for the day enjoying the displays and the general festival atmosphere. It was an experience unique to this area of China, where people often bring a bag of vegetables or fruit when they go somewhere.

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