An all-women team of College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Science (CAFES) students flourished in an annual statewide flower-arranging contest.

On Nov. 3, Samantha Theodozio, Kiara Benavides, Kassidy Talbot and Madison Reaves traveled to the the Los Angeles Flower District to compete in the California State Floral Association Student Competition. Each team had to assemble one floral design in 45 minutes, and then assemble a surprise arrangement with provided flowers. At the end of the competition, Cal Poly’s team placed among the top five winners.

Each student had previous floral design experience from high school or on campus at the Horticulture and Crop Science department’s Poly Plant Shop. Before the competition, they were also required to become certified by the American Association of Floral Designers.

According to recreation, parks and tourism administration sophomore Samantha Theodozio, the team practiced assembling their floral design twice before packing their cargo van to the brim with Cal Poly-grown flowers. The theme was “visual dialogue,” which required each student to design a piece with their own vision. At the end, the students’ pieces came together to form a cohesive arrangement.

Teams from seven other colleges competed alongside Cal Poly, all with varying levels of experience.

Plant science freshman Kassidy Talbot put a personal spin on her portion of the floral design with music notes, symbolic of her past piano experience.

“That’s how I was able to put my own personality and my own hobbies into that, because I did play piano at a young age,” Talbot said. “A piece of my childhood was able to go into it.”

The second part of the competition involved designing a floral centerpiece around a theme that the competing teams would not know until the round started. Talbot said she felt that watching the TV show Chopped prepared her for this type of “on the spot” thinking. She also said that the best part of the competition was getting to see the competitors’ Veteran’s Day centerpieces.

“They all look so different, but we all use the same flowers,” Talbot said. “So, it was really cool to see what other people came up with.”

Each individual piece was judged on creativity, overall construction and a ‘fan favorite’ element. The four team members all placed in the top five and took cash prizes home as well.

“It was amazing. We were just so shocked,” agricultural science sophomore Kiara Benavides said. “We felt very grateful. Our hard work that was put toward practicing and stuff payed off.”

Theodozio said that she hopes the team will be able to go to the next level and compete in national competitions.

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