Growers and judges take pride in Sweet Pea contest


BOZEMAN, Mont. - Sweet Peas, tie-dye and Tater Pigs -- those are the three things that sum up the Sweet Pea Festival for Bozeman resident Barbara Edgmond. "I don't think we've missed a year," says Edgmond. For close to 36 years, ever since the Sweet Pea Festival started back up in 1978, Edgmond has entered a sweet pea flower into the the contest. "I grew up as a 4-H kid and I think there's always been that competition. You always just have to enter something." She starts preparing in late March, early April, germinating her seeds before planting them on Good Friday. Edgmond tells us Mother Nature does most of the work but she always fertilizes her sweet pea flowers, waters them daily when it's hot and picks them often. She tells us she even brings her own water to use at the contest. The judges use a number of criteria to score the sweet pea flowers, including how many flowerettes are on the stem, how long, thick and straight the stem is and how good of shape the flowerettes are in. "You need to pick them just before you bring them in so they're fresh and nice," says Judge Jan Cashman. Cashman shows off the sweet peas she grew in her own garden. This will be her second year judging the flowers and tells me it's not always easy. "It was challenging, especially with the category that there was a lot of entries but we would eliminate some right from the beginning," explains Cashman. Cashman says she loves sweet peas and hopes the festival continues for many years to come. It's a sentiment shared by judges and growers alike. "Sweet Pea is just special and it always has been," says Edgmond. There's a new category this year in the sweet pea flower contest -- photography. Snap your most creative sweet pea flower photos and bring them to the flower tent on Friday between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Judging is from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and winners will be announced at 5:30 p.m. The flowers will be on display all weekend.