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All Levels of Gardening Experience Encouraged to Attend Gardeners’ BIG Day

One might think that after 20 years of coordinating a program that we would run out of new and exciting topics, but the opposite is true for Gardeners’ BIG Day 2020. University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners have a spectacular line up of presenters for the 20th event anniversary set for April 18, 2020 at Spoon River College in Canton.

Extension Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists share their own expertise, invite many of their horticulture contacts, and line up Extension experts to present on a variety of topics of interest to new horticulture enthusiasts as well as further educate long-time gardeners. This year’s session topics include trees, flowers, weeds, climate, tools, composting, and pests.

“This day-long event is structured to provide gardeners with information, ideas, and helpful hints for vegetable and flower gardening. Our planning committee select topics that appeal to Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists, as well as first-time gardeners,” explained Bob Keene, Extension Master Gardener (EMG) serving in the Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Unit. Bob is part of a team of EMGs and members of the Spoon River Garden Club who work together to plan the annual Gardeners’ BIG Day.

The 2020 keynote speaker is Colleen Callahan, director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. She is well known throughout Central Illinois and beyond for her career in agriculture communications at WMBD, her service to the National Association of Farm Broadcasters, her role as state director of Illinois’ Rural Development for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and now through her role with IDNR. She will be presenting on Project Wingspan: Landscape Enhancement for Imperiled Pollinators of the Midwest.

Other well-known presenters include Ella Maxwell, EMG and horticulturist at Hoerr Nursery; John Curtis owner of Barefoot Gardens CSA; Debbie Fluegel of Trees Forever, and Extension educators including Duane Friend, Ken Johnson, Jenna Smith, and Chris Enroth. “Following the keynote speaker, participants can select their four break-out sessions from a total of 14 different options, five per time-slot,” Keene mentioned. “

Space is limited for this popular event. Session description details are available within the online registration at or in a printed brochure available at one of our U of I Extension offices in Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell counties. If you would like one mailed directly to you contact Anita Wilkinson, Extension communications coordinator at 309-347-6614 or Paula Lane, Extension office support at 309-543-3308.

Early bird registration is $35 by March 23. After that the price increases to $45 until April 9 or the event reaches capacity.

“In 2019 we reached capacity with over 120 people,” explained Keene. “So this year we added more break-out sessions so we have room for more. We also schedule plenty of time for people to visit with each other and our vendors, bid on silent auction items, and register for door prizes.”

Gardeners’ BIG Day – Saturday, April 18, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Held at Spoon River College, Canton

Coordinated by University of Illinois Extension, Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Unit and Spoon River Garden Club

Registration fee includes lunch and a reusable cup.

Register online at

Gardeners’ BIG Day and the Master Gardener program are just two of many educational opportunities provided by University of Illinois Extension. “Our next Extension Master Gardener training is set to begin April 2,” stated Ian Goslin, Extension horticulture coordinator. “Master Gardeners learn how to improve home landscapes, grow their own food, care for household plants, and manage pests. Our 9-week training program teaches all about fruits and vegetables, trees and flowers, plant disease, botany, insects, turfgrass, and soils.”

The University of Illinois Extension website is a great place to start to find more information about upcoming events, research specific topics, and get connected with Extension staff who can help answer additional questions.