The Ken-Ton Garden Tour is one of the most anticipated events of the summer in the Ken-Ton community. It’s an annual celebration of color that showcases the hard work and dedication of local gardeners.
Rooted in humble beginnings, the Ken-Ton Garden Tour began in 2002, then known as the Town of Tonawanda Treasure Spots Program. The program was originally envisioned as a small and simple activity in which Town and Village of Kenmore residents could nominate their choice for the most attractive and well-maintained commercial and civic properties (i.e., “treasured spots” in our community). Nominated properties would later be evaluated, and the top ten were designated with a lawn sign during the first weekend in August.
Despite the intended focus on commercial and civic properties, a July 10, 2002 article in The Buffalo News mistakenly advised the public to nominate residential properties instead.
In a matter of days, volunteers logged several dozen phone calls from eager residents boasting of their neighbors’ botanical accomplishments.
With such a dramatic outpouring of interest, organizers decided to adjust the format of the program to accommodate home gardens, despite having just three weeks to pull it all together. This decision paved the way for what would become the second home garden tour in Western New York, next to Garden Walk Buffalo.
That first year, organizers chose to use the term “garden tour” instead of “garden walk” to discourage garden enthusiasts from attempting to walk the sometimes three mile distance between participating gardens, which were scattered throughout the Town.
The inaugural Treasure Spots Garden Tour took place as planned the first weekend in August 2002, when hundreds of visitors flocked to the Town of Tonawanda and Village of Kenmore to see a magnificent and diverse - although small - collection of local gardens. Organizers were amazed at the success of the event, especially considering that it was born out of a misunderstanding and largely pulled together in just a few weeks.
Over the next two years, the Treasure Spots garden tour grew and matured, drawing larger crowds and visitors from as far as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Ontario, and beyond. As notoriety grew, so too did the number of participating gardeners and the prevalence of tacky newspaper headlines (e.g., “Landscaping contest yields a bounty of ‘treasure spots’”).
After the third year, significant improvements came to the Treasure Spots Program. The name of the Program was changed to the Ken-Ton Garden Tour to better reflect the geographic and community-centric context of the annual gardening event. Also, the practice of “nominating” gardens for inclusion in the tour was dropped in lieu of a more practical registration process. The new process welcomed any and all gardeners in the Village of Kenmore and Town of Tonawanda to personally register their home garden as a destination on the Ken-Ton Garden Tour. Registrants received a lawn sign for display purposes during the event, and their address and a description of their garden were included in a guidebook distributed throughout the community.
Beginning in 2011, the date of the Ken-Ton Garden Tour shifted from the first weekend in August to the second-last weekend in July. The date change came at the request of gardeners, since they believed their flowers were in a peak bloom state. Additionally, this was a way for the Tour to join the Gardens Buffalo Niagara, a five-week celebration of gardening in Western New York. We are pleased to be a part of this annual Buffalo-area tradition.
Also in 2011, the Ken-Ton Garden Tour hosted its first Saturday Night Lights event, an evening tour showcasing select gardens after dusk. This annual tradition was modeled after the popular Starry Night Tour of the annual Black Rock-Riverside Tour of Gardens.
As time goes on, the Ken-Ton Garden Tour continues to engender a sense of civic pride among Town and Village residents and stresses the ability of beautification to enhance our community’s quality of life.