Entered on a whim, local woman’s lilies win Best of Show

Nell McConahey entered her lilies at the state fair on a whim. She had no idea they would win Best of Show.


McConahey, a Juneau resident, won four awards at the Alaska State Fair this summer. Her ribbons hang from the wall of the crafting studio in her home past the ferry terminal, where she spoke to the Empire on Thursday.

“It was just fun and entertainment more than anything else,” she said.

McConahey has traveled to Palmer for the official Alaska State Fair for 18 years. Under the banner of her business Spiral Studio, she sells jewelry and stained-glass creations from a booth at the fair. Her work can be seen at the Juneau Artists Gallery downtown. Mirrors and jellyfish are a specialty.

Every August, she packs up her trailer, parked next to her garden, and heads north, leaving her husband at home. Next to her trailer lies a small garden, where she’s grown Casablanca lilies since soon after McConahey and her husband bought the property 10 years ago.

This year, one lily stem had a particularly productive growing season, producing 38 flowers. Lilies grow from bulbs and produce every year. For the first time in seven or eight years, her Casablanca lily, which usually blooms white, bloomed pink.

It would be a nice addition to her booth, she thought. Her husband wouldn’t appreciate the flowers like fairgoers.

Those thoughts were confirmed at the fair. Visitors to the Spiral Studio booth commented on the bountiful lily stem as much as anything.

“They were just surprised with at the number of blooms on it. I had to cut off I think four blooms, so it still had 34 on it, so, oh darn,” she said, laughing.

A few fairgoers convinced her to enter the flowers in the competition. It was just another fun thing to do at the fair, a way to pass the time during her hours at the booth. McConahey went so far as to buy replacement flowers for the lilies.

She estimates there were 200-300 flower entries total. Out of those, the Best of Show and Judge’s Choice awards were picked. McConahey won both and two more awards in the smaller categories of hybrid lilies and overall lilies.

The impressive amount of blooms on her lily stem gave her a leg up on the competition. Most lilies entered only had two or three blooms.

McConahey’s reaction when winning the award was “just giggles,” she said.

She might add more lilies to her garden next year, but she says she doubts she’ll enter them in the fair. She’d like to go out as a champion.

“I am never going to win four ribbons again,” she said, “Four is pretty good.”



Contact Kevin Gullufsen at kevin.gullufsen@juneauempire.com or call (907) 321-6584.




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