Secret Garden Tour canceled; La Jolla Historical Society to hold virtual garden party Aug. 22

The La Jolla Historical Society’s Secret Garden Tour has been canceled this year.
The La Jolla Historical Society’s Secret Garden Tour has been canceled this year and replaced with a “virtual garden party” scheduled for Aug. 22.

After attempts at postponement and socially distant revisions, the La Jolla Historical Society’s Secret Garden Tour has been canceled, moving instead to an online “virtual garden party” in August.

The annual Secret Garden Tour is typically held in April but was postponed in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic with the hope that a safe alternative could be created. A revised tour with limited groupings was planned for Aug. 8 as the Summer Garden Tour.

However, on July 10, Historical Society Executive Director Heath Fox said the event has been canceled.

“The chairs of the Secret Garden Tour planning committee as well as board leadership at La Jolla Historical Society have been paying close attention to the evolving [COVID-19] situation,” he said. “In San Diego County, it has gotten considerably worse in recent weeks. It was worse in the last three weeks than it was the preceding three months. Our first priority is public health and safety and we want to support what public health officials and government officials are doing to combat this pandemic, and that’s the overriding factor that has caused us to cancel the Secret Garden Tour.”

The 2021 Secret Garden Tour is scheduled for May 15.

In its place this year, the Historical Society will hold a virtual garden party beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 22, on Zoom.

The program will include speakers discussing the history of the Secret Garden Tour, along with comments from garden owners and longtime attendees, videos from some gardens from years past, Historical Society board members talking about some of the most interesting and creative gardens from previous tours, and a live poll in which those attending can vote for their favorites.

“We’re very excited about this,” said event chairwoman Meg Davis. “Other organizations have gone virtual, so there is precedent for this. We wanted to find a way to stay involved with our members and people who would attend the tour.

“It’s bittersweet. We were so looking forward to being in the gardens, but we want to be responsible members of the community and make sure our attendees have a good experience. We think this virtual event is going to give people the chance to engage, see others in the community, learn a lot about the gardens. It’s a different event, but we think it will be a good event.”

Given that the Secret Garden Tour is a fundraiser for the La Jolla Historical Society, the virtual garden party also will feature a preview of some the “experience auction items” that will be up for bid.

Participants can bid on one or several items by buying a ticket on the Historical Society website. There are 50 chances available for each item. Experience auction items include a beach picnic at La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club, a virtual guided wine tasting with friends, a private educational cocktail class, a walking tour of historical La Jolla, a guided tour of Balboa Park and the Spreckels Organ Pavilion and a behind-the-scenes tour of the San Diego Railroad Museum.

Paintings from the gardens that would normally be displayed during the Secret Garden Tour will be up for purchase as well.

“It’s really exciting to be able to transition to a program like this,” Fox said. “We think it is going to be a fun event and encourage people to join in. The La Jolla Historical Society, like all arts and culture organizations, is fundamentally a social-type organization and we had to cancel all of our programs for the rest of the year. Hopefully our galleries will reopen soon and we can present our exhibition that we have planned. But the events and programs and activities that gather people together to celebrate those things and to be engaged are on hold until this crisis abates. There are certainly challenges we face as a result, but this program to take this virtual is really exciting. It will be interesting and fun and we hope people will join us with a beverage of their choice to relax and join the party.”

Proceeds from the Secret Garden Tour (and now the virtual garden party) contribute to covering the Historical Society’s operating costs and enable it to present exhibitions, educational programming and other community events that are often free to the public.

“The Secret Garden Tour has become an important community event,” Fox said. “We have 1,000 people in a typical year participate. ... The gardens in La Jolla have always been part of the residential landscape here and they are important to issues of the environment, so ... I am sorry we cannot present it this year, but I am also excited to not let it go completely and do something interesting and informative in a virtual thing.”

The virtual garden party will not charge admission, with the hope that those who attend will participate in the auction and painting sales.

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