FlowerMart more than just bulbs & blossoms

The winners of the annual Grand Hat Contest during a past Baltimore FlowerMart proudly show off their award-winning hats and prize ribbons.| Courtesy photo

Annual springtime Baltimore event dates to 1911

The sweet scent of spring flowers will welcome attendees to Baltimore FlowerMart 2017 even before they enter Mount Vernon Square at The Washington Monument this weekend. Located in the shadows of Baltimore’s Washington Monument, the FlowerMart’s 102nd year will take place 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday, May 5 and Saturday, May 6.

A Baltimore spring tradition since 1911, the festival is said to be the first flower mart in the U.S. . Established by the Women’s Civic League as a way to raise funds to improve city living conditions, the fair has run almost every year since.

According to the Baltimore Sun article “100 years later, FlowerMart still blooming,” after the League announced that the 1999 mart would be the last, former Baltimore Mayor William Donald Schaefer and Mount Vernon attorney Fred Bierer, who both had attended the event since childhood, stepped up to ensure the event for future generations.

With the help of former FlowerMart chairwoman Carol Purcell, the non-profit organization FlowerMart at Mt. Vernon, Ltd., was established to continue the tradition and to add new and exciting additions to it as well.

Billed as the 21st century version of the event, this year’s theme, “Old Traditions…With a New Twist!” promises to delight festival goers, old and new.

FlowerMart traditions include the Grand Hat Contest which pits the beautiful, outlandish, and unbelievable millinery of festival-goers against each other as they compete for one of four titles including “Best of Baltimore,” and “Fancy Florals.” A hat contest specifically for children who want to get in on the fun follows.

No FlowerMart experience is complete without tasting the festival’s signature treat: the lemon stick. The peppermint stick melts in your mouth, delectably mixing the sweet and sour. | Courtesy photo

The famous lemon peppermint sticks, which are said to be a FlowerMart original, will be available to purchase in the Blossom Food Hall. The treat, consists of a lemon half pierced with a peppermint candy stick. As the candy stick slowly dissolves the mix of sour and sweet give off an unexpectedly delicious taste.

And let’s not forget the reason for the festival: flowers. Along with tons of hanging baskets and bouquets, heirloom seeds, and vegetable and herb plants will be available for sale. The For-Win-Ash Garden Club will also give flower-talks and demonstrate how to create floral arrangements.

John Valenti, the 1st vice president of the FlowerMart organization said FlowerMart plants are different this year.

“Shelly’s Blossoms is one of the vendors and she really has unique things at her booth… arrangements and different kinds of flower you wouldn’t normally see. [Other vendors] have pitcher plants and Venus fly traps. You will not see that at your florist, but you will if you go to the FlowerMart,” he said.

In addition to flowers, the festival includes hundreds of vendors selling a variety of items, such as home decor, gardening gear, and women’s accessories.

A returning favorite from last year is the Tower Garden, a vertical aeroponic growing system that only depends on water and nutrients to grow, no soil is needed.

After working up an appetite, attendees can stop at the Blossoms Food Hall which includes a plethora of options, including crab pretzels, hamburgers, a raw bar, roasted corn and strudel, just to name a few. There is also a new craft beer garden and wine bar available for those looking for refreshments while taking in all the festival has to offer.

For children, the Beehive Children’s Camp, noon to 5 p.m. Saturday at West Park, will feature activities like origami, paper plate faces, opera-singing puppets, a balloon artist, face painting, a stilt walker and much more.

There will also be two full days of live entertainment on two stages, featuring local, regional and national recording artists.

Valenti said he’s excited for this year’s festival and he loves watching people, no matter their age, enjoy the day.

“It’s multi-generational,” he said. “As [people] look around [they] will see generations together having fun and it’s great. That’s what it’s about for me.”

For more information about the FlowerMart, visit http://www.flowermartmd.org/.

By Lauren Finnegan, APG News