This year’s 2018 US National Bonsai Exhibition was held in East Rochester, New York on September 8-9, 2018. Over 40 volunteers worked hard from the Rochester area and also Canada, North Carolina and Ithaca from Tuesday through Friday to build backgrounds for showcasing nearly 300 of the finest bonsai in the United States and Canada. The Total Sports Experience venue is a 55,000 sq. ft. facility with superb lighting, high ceilings with the floor covered in soft green Astroturf. It holds two indoor soccer fields, one used for the bonsai exhibition and the other for the sales area. Jamie Hammond and Brian Cummings from the sports complex warmly welcomed us and assisted to present the bonsai and control the crowds.
Guests traveled from Europe, South Africa, Australia, Japan, and South America as well as throughout the United States, Mexico, Canada and Puerto Rico to visit an exhibition of the highest level bonsai in our country. An area with large and small tables was available for visitors to enjoy bonsai fellowship. Everyone was friendly, no politics and many commented that their visit was like a large family reunion. One of the main reasons for organizing the US National Bonsai Exhibitions is to elevate the quality and understanding bonsai while uniting the American bonsai community. Our common interest in bonsai shines through as we appreciate bonsai from all corners of our country.
Exhibitors from 27 states, Canada and Puerto Rico prepared some of their beautiful bonsai to share with the world through their display. Each bonsai was clean, mossed and had a display table as well as companion or accessory. This takes considerable effort and years of care and training by each exhibitor.
Special Exhibits from the following collections were also displayed:
National Bonsai Museumat the US National Arboretum, Washington, DC
Montreal Botanic Garden,Montreal, Canada
Chicago Botanic Garden,IL
Pacific Bonsai Museum,WA
Karamatsu Bonsai Study Group,Montreal, Canada
Bonsai Societyat the Royal Botanic Garden in Burlington, Canada
University of MichiganMatthaei Botanical Gardens, MI
In total there were 281 individual bonsai on show in 178 displays. There were 127 different species and cultivars representing 135 bonsai artists. Shohin bonsai were displayed in 29 compositions with a total of 121 individual small, but mighty specimens.
There was an hour and a half waiting time to enter the exhibition on Saturday morning. After the initial rush there was only a 30 minute wait. Over 500 weekend passes were sold before the exhibition opened. At the door hundreds of Saturday day passes were sold out before 10 am, so the Sunday day passes were used and they were sold out by noon. We printed more passes on Saturday evening for Sunday. Nobody was refused, but rather welcomed to the exhibition. Everyone enjoyed the spacious aisles in order to appreciate the bonsai forms and distinctive displays.
The Opening Ceremony included:
Lindsay Bebb– Australia(Chair World Bonsai Friendship Federation, judge and demonstrator
Naemi Iwasaki– Japan(Nippon Bonsai Association and Vice-Chair World Bonsai Friendship Federation)
Marc Arpag(President Bonsai Society of Upstate New York)
Glenis Bebb– Australia(President Bonsai Clubs International and demonstrator)
Felix Laughlin(Co-President National Bonsai Foundation)
Jack Sustic(Co-President National Bonsai Foundation)
Marc Fields(President American Bonsai Society)
Taiga Urushibata– Japan(Judge and demonstrator)
Mauro Stemberger– Italy(Judge and demonstrator)
Ronald Maggio(Publicity Director representing the Mayor of Rochester, County Manager and NYS Senator)
Wm. N. Valavanis(Organizer)
Publicity director Ronald Maggio arranged for extensive television coverage on three channels in the Rochester area. Additionally, a live broadcast which was recorded and repeated throughout the weekend helped to promote the event.
It takes a great deal of time, help and the generous funds from the sponsors, patrons, benefactors and donors made the event possible. The stellar success of this year’s US National Bonsai Exhibition was possible due to the exhibitors, vendors, demonstrators, judges and artists conducting critiques as well as the 40 volunteers who made certain the venue was set up correctly and guests made welcome.
Joseph Noga, along with another volunteer crew carefully photographed each bonsai for inclusion in the Commemorative Album, which is now in production.
The three judges, Taiga Urushibata (Japan), Lindsay Bebb (Australia) and Mauro Stemberger (Italy) carefully studied all the bonsai and how they were displayed. It was amazing that most of their selections were unanimous. The following awards were presented at the Saturday evening Award Banquet:
The National Award
Japanese Black Pine
Evergreen Bonsai Award
Rocky Mountain Juniper
Deciduous Bonsai Award
Medium Size Bonsai Award
Japanese Five-needle Pine
Yoshimura Classical Bonsai Award
Kiyo Hime Japanese Maple
Custom Oriental Woodcraft Award
Finest Shohin Bonsai Display
Mame Bonsai Award
Willow Leaf Fig
Bonsai Travel Award
Bonsai & Companion Combination
Nippon Bonsai Association Award
Rough Bark Japanese Maple
All American Bonsai Award
American Bonsai, Container & Display Table
ABS North American Bonsai Award
Puerto Rico Bonsai Federation Award
Brazilian Rain Tree Forest
Sho Fu Bonsai Society of Sarasota
Magio Associates Suiseki Award
In Memory of Felix Rivera
Tatemori Gondo Satsuki Award
Shiryu No Mai Satsuki
Invitational Bonsai Exhibit Award
The Kennett Collection
Canadian Bonsai Award
Eastern White Cedar
Montreal Botanic Garden
The soccer field size sales area was full to capacity with 40 vendors and buyers from across the country, Canada and Puerto Rico. At times, it was difficult to move around as everyone was buying. Some vendors were nearly completely sold out. Several vendors mentioned that they doubled their sales from previous exhibitions. The sales area is an important part of any exhibition and the vendors must be congratulated for hauling their trees, containers, collected trees, display tables, suiseki, supplies, heavy soils, tools and more to a central area where bonsai buyers can purchase anything they need in one room.
The demonstrators provided instructive and entertaining presentations working on Junipers. Mauro Stemberger shaped a Sierra Juniper while Taiga Urushibata, assisted by Daisaku Nomoto, worked on a Western Juniper.
Lindsay and Glenis Bebb pruned, wired and shaped a Sargent Juniper. Sean Smith presented two lectures on suiseki while Michael Ryan Bell’s topic was Japanese bonsai containers.
Twice daily there were critiques conducted by some of the top authorities in our country. They volunteered their services for their critiques which were well attended. The following artists presented critiques: Bjorn Bjorholm, Kora Dalager, David DeGroot, David Easterbrook, Boon Manakitivipart, Nina & Larry Ragle, Kathy Shaner, Sean Smith and Suthin Sukosolvisit. All the demonstrations and critiques for free with the paid admission.
On Saturday afternoon a Benefit Auction was conducted by Julian Adams where approximately 50 items were sold to the highest bidders. Many large size bonsai and containers from the Valavanis Collection now have new owners. Additionally friends and vendors also donated many distinctive items to help fund the US National Bonsai Exhibition.
Marc Arpag designed and installed the welcome garden near the entrance. This year he featured the little known Bonsai Hall of Fame at the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum at the US National Arboretum in Washington, DC. There are only three inductees in this group who have made significant contributions to bonsai in the United States. The first two inductees, John Y. Naka and Yuji Yoshimura have passed on, while Wm. N. Valavanis is the only living member of the National Bonsai Hall of Fame. Marc was able to display a Mugho pine bonsai which John Naka created 40 years ago, plus a Nippon Daisy bonsai originally imported from Japan by Yuji Yoshimura. Finally a Shishigashira Japanese maple bonsai was included which was grown and shaped by Wm. N. Valavanis for 49 years in a container.
Everyone enjoyed the very successful and exciting 6thUS National Bonsai Exhibition which was completely full of beautiful distinctive bonsai, friendly bonsai lovers, a diverse group of vendors while enjoying comfortable weather. Join us in two years to experience an exhibition showcasing the highest level of bonsai in America.
Check out this excellent video produced by Oscar Jonker from Bonsai Empire:
The 2020 7thUS National Bonsai Exhibition will be held on September 12-13, 2020 in the same venue. Now is the time to begin preparing your bonsai for display.
If you can’t wait until 2020 to see fine bonsai, consider visiting the 2019 2ndUS National Shohin Bonsai Exhibition on June 21-23, 2019 in Kannapolis, North Carolina, outside Charlotte. The unique venue for this exhibition is the North Carolina Research Center, a four story elegant building featuring walls covered with Italian marble.
The North Carolina Research Center is also the venue for the upcoming 6thWinter Silhouette Bonsai Expo on December 1-2, 2018. For additional information visit:
If you like these photos, wait to see to see Joe Noga’s final portrait photos in a future issue of International BONSAIand also in the upcoming Commemorative Album.You can easily order this quality photographic record of the US National Bonsai Exhibition for your club, personal study or your reference library here: