West End Fair judge passionate about art, flowers
Judges Joanne Spengler, left, and Linda Kortz judge flower entries at the West End Fair on Sunday morning. ASPEN SMITH/TIMES NEWS
The volunteers in the West End Fair Floral Exhibits department say that if you stick around judge Linda Kortz long enough, you’ll learn something.
Kortz has been judging flowers at the fair since the 1970s, and she shares wisdom, not just about plants but about life.
When a young woman Kortz knows graduates from college, she gives her a big vase and tells her to keep a bouquet on her desk to cheer her up when she hits the bottom of the barrel.
“Never forget that you can be a powerful woman in business and still be a woman,” Kortz tells her.
Kortz started out as an art teacher in Stroudsburg for 10 years before becoming a businesswoman. She founded a company in the home décor industry and designed for large companies, often traveling overseas.
At trade shows, Kortz said many of the professionals wore artsy clothing. Instead, Kortz dressed in suits.
“I never thought I needed to dress artsy to prove that I was a designer. I wanted to prove that I was kind of a businesswoman who just happened to be a designer,” Kortz said.
Kortz said that was how she became the first female board member on the board of directors for the Hobby Industry Association, which has since been renamed.
She retired early, though she ended up working again with a company that designed exhibits for trade shows and museums until around 2000.
“I don’t retire well, I found out,” she laughed. “A crazy lady is always a crazy lady.”
Kortz still keeps busy, designing local museums and serving as president of the Governor Wolf Historical Society in Bath.
“As you think about what you’ve done in your life, there’s a common thread somewhere,” Kortz said. “And for me it was design. … Gardening was always my hobby — but a serious hobby. I was lucky enough to have two things to occupy my life that I absolutely love: designing things and growing things.”
Kortz described the joy she feels walking into a museum that she designed.
“There is such a feeling of just satisfaction, that you had an idea and it exists — there it is,” she said. “I think sometimes people don’t stand back and look at what they’ve created, and just for a few seconds say, ‘oh my gosh, it actually happened!’ ”
On Sunday morning, Kortz examined shelves of cut flowers in vases, discussing their qualities with fellow judge Joanne Spengler and other volunteers.
All the judges in this department are “avid plant people,” Kortz said. “You can’t be a judge and not be.”
Kortz said her mother, Jane Gilbert, was a passionate gardener and started the Morristown Garden Club, so Kortz grew up learning about flowers.
“You’re a real gardener if the smell of soil and packs of seeds makes your heart beat,” Kortz said.
What keeps her coming back to the fair every year?
“I just love the people up there and it’s so much fun,” Kortz said. “We have such a good time when we’re there judging, and we meet a lot of really neat new people, and some people that have a lot of questions about the plants. Once you’re a teacher, kind of always a teacher,” she laughed.
“I just thoroughly enjoy it, I really do.”