Bruce Schultz | 5/26/2005 2:33:10 AM
ABBEVILLE – The Abbeville Daylily Festival is honoring Charles Dill Sr. for his love of plants and his community.
The free festival will be under the oak trees of Magdalene Square in downtown Abbeville from 8:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. June 4.
More than 60 vendors selling plants and gardening items will be at the festival, along with LSU AgCenter speakers talking about plant-related issues.
Dill, who died in December 2002 at the age of 86, was an active member of the area Camellia Society. Organizations such as the local Chamber of Commerce relied on Dill’s camellias to adorn their tables at annual functions.
He was born in Donaldsonville and settled in Abbeville in 1945 after serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II as a finance officer. And he managed the Vermilion Parish Farmer’s Cooperative for 36 years until he retired in 1986.
Dill helped organize the Gulf Coast Bank and served on its board of directors for 30 years. In addition, he was active in the Louisiana Rice Council, Louisiana Rice Growers Association and American Rice Inc.
Among his many activities, he was involved in the 4-H Foundation Board, and a Charles Dill Sr. Leadership Award was established for 4-H students. He received a Certificate of Merit from the Times-Picayune in recognition of his work with 4-H, the youth outreach and educational program of the nation’s land-grant universities that is operated in Louisiana by the LSU AgCenter. He also received the Award of the Diamond Clover for 20 years of volunteer leadership in 4-H.
Hilton Waits, an LSU AgCenter county agent in Vermilion Parish, said he owes a lot to Dill because of his willingness to help 4-H programs.
"If there was something that we needed or a program we wanted to start, Mr. Dill was one of the first people we would contact," Waits said. "He was willing to step up and do what needed to be done."
Jimmy Dardeau, a retired LSU AgCenter agent who worked in Vermilion Parish, said Dill was on the original board for the local 4-H Foundation, served on a committee to get a tax passed in Vermilion Parish to support the LSU AgCenter’s extension service and was a judge for public speaking contestants.
"I could just go on and on and on," Dardeau said.
Howard Cormier, another LSU AgCenter county agent in Vermilion Parish, said Dill never ceased to be amazed at the quality of entries when judging 4-H contests.
"He was a gentleman. He was always so supportive of kids and adults, too," Cormier said. "He had a deep concern for farmers, having worked with them all his life."
Cormier said Dill’s reputation for growing flowers was well known in the Abbeville area.
"He loved his flowers and sharing them with people," Cormier said. "I remember visiting him, and he’d be wringing wet from work but he enjoyed it."
Dill’s son, Charles Dill Jr. of Abbeville, said his father was involved in a wide spectrum of activities and organizations. "If people didn’t know my father, they knew of him," he said.
"When he got involved in an organization, it wasn’t just to sit there," Charles Dill Jr. recalled. "He was a doer and he got involved."
But Dill said his father’s constant interest was gardening.
"He lived to work in the yard, and he was a whiz at grafting. I can remember growing up – the driveway was lined with daylilies. Neighbors used to say he could put a stick in the ground and it would grow."
A few daylilies still emerge every spring at the family home along the driveway, and it reminds Dill of his father’s passion for gardening.
He said his father also planted a vegetable garden every year, and that his father also grew figs, mirlitons, citrus fruit and pecans. He remembers his father often traveled to the LSU AgCenter Citrus Station in Plaquemines Parish to get young citrus trees, and a number of those plants are still bearing fruit.
The younger Dill said his father also kept bees, raised cattle and had a flock of show pigeons and a kennel full of beagles for rabbit hunting.
It was a blessing that the elder Dill father had so many interests to help keep him busy after the death of his wife, Elda Libersat Dill, in 1997, Charles Dill Jr. said.
LSU AgCenter horticulture agent Stuart Gauthier said the elder Dill’s legacy is prominent in Vermilion Parish, and the Dill family has generously supported 4-H.
"His legacy continues to do a lot for our programs in Vermilion Parish," Gauthier said.
The festival, now in its third year, attracted more than 3,000 last year, according to Gauthier. It features vendors of plants, garden supplies, birdhouses, patio items, yard art and pottery. A "plant swap" also will be held.
Efforts have been made to get more daylily information this year, Gauthier said, adding, "We have 12 daylily vendors this year."
Speakers at the festival will include:
–Dr. Ron Strahan of the LSU AgCenter, who will talk at 9 a.m. about weeds in lawns and flower beds and how to fight them.
–Dr. David Lee of the LSU AgCenter, who will speak at 10 a.m. about lawn care.
–Dr. Gordon Holcomb of the LSU AgCenter, who will conduct a daylily rust clinic at 11 a.m.
–Louisiana Master Gardener Becky Taylor, an LSU AgCenter volunteer, who will give a presentation on plant propagation at 1 p.m.
–Herb farmer June Walker, who will talk at 2 p.m. about growing herbs in containers.
Results of the Vermilion Parish 4-H Garden Contest Awards will be announced at 12:15 p.m.
The festival is presented by the Abbeville Chamber of Commerce, Abbeville Main Street and the LSU AgCenter. Sponsors include the City of Abbeville, Gulf Coast Bank and the Louisiana Nursery and Landscape Association.
If bad weather strikes, the festival will be held in the Cecil J. McCrory Building at 1105 Porter St. in Abbeville – behind the LSU AgCenter Extension Office – a building that Dill helped get built.
Writer: Bruce Schultz at (337) 788-8821 or firstname.lastname@example.org