If anything deserves a sunny day it's the Baltimore Herb Festival coming up this Saturday -- since rain has fallen on almost all of the four previous festivals.
But raindrops haven't prevented it from becoming the largest herb festival in the country and so, rain or shine, this year's event will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Leakin Park.
The theme of the festival this year is organic gardening and there will be lectures, demonstrations, displays, food, music and herb plants -- lots of herb plants.
"People come for the plants," festival coordinator Mary Louise Wolf says. "It's the greatest selection of unusual herbs you'll find anywhere."
More than 40 vendors from Maryland and the surrounding states will be bringing live herbs and rare perennials plus dried herbs, herb crafts and foods. "Even those people that say they're just bringing plants always get something else, some little crafted things made out of herbs, in there," Ms. Wolf adds.
Lectures will include a talk given by Janet Walker, curator of the Natonal Herb Garden at the National Arboretum, who will lecture on the organic aspects of the National Herb Garden; and one by Jill Ann Williams on elegant edible flowers, fresh and candied. Jen Mescher of Burke, Va., will talk on herbal bath products and pharmacist Kelvin Levitt of the Health Department health food store in Randallstown will discuss Bach flowers.
Bertha Reppert of Rosemary House in Mechanicsburg, Pa., will lecture on companion planting. Rob Wood of Spoutwood Farm in Glen Rock, Pa., will give a talk on herb gardens of the mid-Atlantic states. Organic gardening in vacant city lots will be the topic of the lecture by Gloria Luster of Baltimore. Jon Traunfeld of the Maryland Cooperative Extension Service in Baltimore City will talk on organic gardening and nutrition.
Rosemary Easley, of Garland's Garden Center, will discuss pesticides for organic gardening; Barbara Steele of Alloway Gardens in Littlestown will talk on organic gardening and the environment; and Leo Tew will introduce a garden supplement called Acadian Seaweed.
James A. Duke, a botanist with the USDA and writer on medicinal herbs, will conduct a walk through the woods in search of medicinal herbs. Naturalist Jean Worthley and Bill Messenger of Essex Community College will lead a walk looking for culinary wild herbs. Corrine Parks, naturalist at Carrie Murray Center, will prepare wild herbs for tasting.
An herbal cook-off open to everyone will be held. Categories will include cookies and cakes, dips and spreads, pies, and beverages.
Exhibits will be presented on herbs of devotion, an herb sampler for smelling and touching, birds and animals of Leakin Park, wedding herbs and exotic plants from the Baltimore Conservatory. Groups with booths will include the Maryland Organic Food and Farming Association, the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension Service and the Maryland Department of Agriculture.
Some of the vendors from Maryland at this year's festival will include JoAnn Aeschlimann of Countryside Herbs and Crafts in Baldwin; Barbara Fabula of Barb's Yarbs in Freeland; Paul C. Bird of Bird's Trading Company in Baltimore; Charlotte and John Blevins of Cha's Ceramics in Silver Spring; Steven R. Hershfeld of Hillcrest Nursery in Millers; Pat Jones and Kathy Morin of Hagerstown; Desiree Mundell of Ethnicity in Baltimore, selling herb jellies; Anthony C. Brown and Laurie Baldwin of the Farmstead in Charlotte Hall; Betty Foote of Baltimore, selling antique pictures; Leroy Wilton of Wilton's Organic Plant Farm in Pasadena; Shawn T. LeMaster of Herbal Creations by Shawn in Baltimore; Frances Ward of Nanjemoy Flower Farm in Nanjemoy; Kelvin Leavitt of Randallstown; William Howard Gale of New World Transformations in Baltimore; John and Corrine Gorzo of Maplebrook Farm in West Friendship; Francesca Hedrick of Chesapeake Herbs and Crafts in Preston; Karen Wass of Garden Graces in Annapolis; Anna Marie Wood and Susan Feight of the Enchanted Herb Garden in Finksburg; Kate and Bill Spangler of the Queen Anne Company in Laurel; Maria Price of Willow Oak Flower and Herb Farm in Severn; and Jill Ann Williams of Sudden Elegance in Baltimore, selling kits for making dried and candied flowers.
Ruth Pouska of Millington will bring needlepoint of herbs. Rob and Lucy Wood of Spoutwood Farm in Glen Rock, Pa., will bring herb crafts and copies of their new book on dried flowers.
Rides will be available on the KALS Railroad and there will be bluegrass music by the New Durham Station. Overlea Catering will have herbal food for sale.
Each year the proceeds from the herb festival are used to help restore the chapel in Leakin Park. The event is co-sponsored by the all-volunteer planning committee of the Baltimore Herb Festival, the Baltimore Department of Recreation and Parks and the Maryland Department of Agriculture.
Admission is $3 per person, which includes parking.
To get to the Baltimore Herb Festival, take the Baltimore Beltway to Exit 16, Interstate 70, toward Baltimore. Turn right onto Security Boulevard, then right onto Forest Park Avenue and right again onto Windsor Mill Road. The entrance to the festival is right there. Signs will be posted.
For more information, call 448-0406.