Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden sees 4,500 visitors on Labor Day as summer nears end

With the summer coming to an end, thousands of people in the Richmond area spent Monday enjoying the outdoors and venues with friends and family for the Labor Day holiday.

“Today is park day,” said Erika Rivers as she, her husband, Keith, and 8-year-old daughter Keirra waited to enter the butterfly exhibit at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. “We started at Libby Hill Park, then went to lunch and, now, we’re here.”

Keith Rivers said the family chose to visit the garden Monday as it was offering free entry to visitors as part of the Genworth Free Community Day observance. He said they had visited before and were eager to see how things have changed in the butterfly exhibit since then.

“There’s a lot of flora,” he said as he took out his phone to show photos of flowers he had taken during their visit. “I don’t know what they are, but they’re pretty.”

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Elsewhere at the garden, longtime friends Cathy Thompson and Victor Pone were also trying to identify a blue flower that seemed to resemble a daisy. They sought out someone on staff who could tell them.

Speaking to a news reporter instead, they talked about how they both hadn’t visited the botanical garden in many years, but thought it would make for a nice holiday outing and an opportunity to find inspiration for their respective gardens at home.

“I love the outdoors,” said Pone, who has a large garden and pond in his backyard with approximately 300 koi fish. “I like to get ideas of what things grow and bloom at this time of year.”

Thompson said she was also thinking about her own garden beds, and was particularly taken with white and green caladium flowers nearby. “I’ve got them in my home, too, and they’re holding up, but they’re not blooming like that,” she said. “This has definitely given me some ideas. Now I know what to do next year.”

Among the 4,500 visitors to the botanical garden Monday, according to Lewis Ginter officials, were Epiphany Radford and Jeff Drake, an engaged couple with two children who said they had just moved to the Richmond area earlier this year from southwest Oklahoma.

Radford said she had been hoping to visit Lewis Ginter for the last several weeks and was surprised when she saw this weekend that entry would be free on Labor Day.

“We’re trying to find fun things to do because we’re not from here. But it’s our new home,” she said as they finished cookies-and-cream ice cream cones from a food truck near the children’s garden. “We’ve been in the house all weekend, so I was definitely excited to go ahead and get up out of it.”

While the botanical garden was busy, others in the Richmond area also spent time relaxing at parks, swimming in the James River, or visiting breweries and other venues.

At Main Line Brewery and the Cirrus Vodka distillery in the Greater Scott’s Addition area Monday afternoon, more than 100 people were in attendance at the outdoor venue for Labor of Love, a folk music festival where half of the ticket proceeds would be split between the Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project and the nonprofit Lift Up Ukraine, according to event organizers.

Just moments after taking a picture of her dog Bella to post to Instagram, Emily Walton and her friend, Jonathan Tilts, sat at a picnic table to drink Painkiller cocktails.

“We love to come here,” Walton said. “It’s just fun to come and hang out. There’s a lot to do here. And I like that you can bring your dog.”

“We actually came here really not expecting to love it or anything,” she added. “We love the atmosphere.”

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