Though the freezing temperatures affected the quantity of entries to this year's Aiken Camellia Society's show, it didn't affect the quality.

The 64th annual Camellia Show began on Saturday with about 550 blooms in comparison to the 2,000 entries at last year's event. Camellia Society member Lee Poe said the brutal cold that has hit the Aiken area during these past few weeks was a factor in the lower entry count, but he was still satisfied with the turnout.

“We're having good attendance,” Poe said, pointing out the steady flow of people coming to see the display. “I was very pleased to see the number of blooms we received this year.”

Mary Rohde of Chicago came to Aiken to see the show, and was very impressed by the variety of colorful, sweet scented entries.

“It's so beautiful, and it smells so good in here,” Rohde said. “They're just incredible. The colors are beautiful.”

About 30 camellia judges from four states participated in the event to consider a host of categories. One of the youngest competitors was Madison Gregory, 9, of Aiken, who was awarded best bloom by a novice. Gregory was very excited and quite proud that her first entry in the competition won.

Gregory handpicked the camellia from the home of George Hano, who resides in a historic Aiken home that was built in about 1925. Hano suggested that Gregory choose a few camellias from his property to enter into the contest.

“She carefully picked the blossoms and she found a couple of nice ones,” Hano said.

Her godmother, Sissy Brodie, said Gregory was “tickled pink.” Brodie had been taking Gregory to the show since she was six, and said it was a wonderful opportunity to introduce her to a unique and fun hobby.

The Camellia Show continues today from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Aiken Mall located at 2441 Whiskey Road. The event is free to the public.

Amy Banton is the County reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the publication since May 2010. She is a native of Rustburg, Va. and a graduate of Randolph-Macon Woman's College.