Local student blooms in national competition

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 14, 2004

[7/14/04]All it took was a trophy to change Grandpa’s mind about the feasibility of a career in floral design.

Suzanne Williams, a senior majoring in horticulture at Mississippi State University, said her first-place overall finish in the Student Floral Design Competition last week convinced her grandfather, Ignacy Kotlarski, that she could make a living with flowers.

“I think he was thinking that it wasn’t a good career,” Williams said. “But after I won, it showed him that I know what I’m doing.”

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Williams took top honors of the 50 student competitors in the event sponsored by the American Institute of Floral Designers.

The Warren Central graduate recorded the highest score in four categories: flowers to wear, bridal, hospital and funeral.

She also won first place in the flowers-to-wear category for her design of a corsage and earned third place in the bridal category.

The win came as a surprise to Williams, who was competing for the first time at the national level.

“I wasn’t expecting it.” she said. “To win was so neat.”

Her best previous showing was twice finishing second overall at the regional contest, which consisted of seven MSU students.

The competition took place in New York in conjunction with the 2004 National Symposium of AIFD from July 3-7.

MSU’s adviser, Jim DelPrince said the competition is the most recognized and prestigious floral design contest in the nation.

“It’s like the Oscars,” he said.

The only other Mississippi State representative competing, Aisha Booker, finished second place overall. The Mississippi State AIFD chapter also received an award for the top team finish.

During the four-hour competition, Williams created all four of her arrangements. The students didn’t find out until the night before the categories in which they would work, but Williams said she wasn’t too surprised because the format was similar to regional contests.

DelPrince, who hasn’t had a student finish in the top five in his 12 years at MSU, said Williams is trendy and and on the cutting edge with her designs.

Williams’ corsage featured an alstroemeria bloom and decorative wire. The final product was graded on artistic appeal including design, balance, harmony and rhythm.

Her bridal arrangement included roses and orchids, decorative wire and greenery.

Isabel Adams, Williams’ mother, said her use of greenery may stem from her childhood when she took her to the Openwood Plantation Garden Club.

“She likes to use greenery,” Adams said. “I liked to work in my garden and also had house plants. She’s always loved flowers.”

Williams also attended seminars, listened to speakers from England and Japan and participated in the Blooms over New York project during the symposium.

Williams will finish classes in December before working at an internship during the spring semester. She said she does not know where she will go for the internship yet, but hopes it will be at a bigger company.

Although she will also receive a business minor when she graduates, Williams said she would rather work for someone else.

“I won’t trust myself doing the books,” she said. “I want to work for a big company so I can focus on the flowers.”