Food, flora draw crowd after rain

May 06, 1993|By Laura Lippman | Laura Lippman,Staff Writer

The Flower Mart, often considered Baltimore's semiofficial homage to spring, narrowly escaped a washout yesterday.

Heavy showers had threatened the 77th annual event as volunteers set up their booths yesterday morning. But the rain tapered off to a fine mist, then stopped by noon, just as the crowds descended on Mount Vernon Square to sample the food and flora offered by neighborhood groups.

Weather may have kept some people away -- this Flower Mart was notable primarily for people being able to actually move through the area around the Washington Monument. But organizers and vendors were upbeat about the turnout. While no one could offer an official crowd estimate, hundreds thronged Mount Vernon Square.

"We've always had it regardless of the weather because everyone has worked toward this day," said Beverly M. Quinones, president of the Women's Civic League, the sponsor of the event. "We just bring our umbrellas and our raincoats and keep on going. Baltimoreans are not going to be deterred by a little rain."

Geraniums, impatiens, black-eyed Susans and roses sold alongside Italian sausage, falafel, crab cakes, coddies, french fries, baked goods, peppermint sticks in lemon halves and "walk-away" sundaes.

Fajitas have joined the traditional fare -- a nod to Cinco de Mayo, which commemorates Mexico's May 5, 1862, victory over the French at Puebla. Cinco de Mayo also inspired the Tony Dee-Special Flower Mart Band to perform a salsa version of "I Wish You Love."

But Vye Parks said the more things change, the more they stay the same. The Flower Mart may be bigger and a bit more multicultural, but it still delights this volunteer from the Brooklyn Civic League.

"I'm 90. I've been doing this 45 years, but I never grow up," said Mrs. Parks, a red boa around her shoulders, a flower-decked hat on her head and a cigarette in her right hand. "As long as I keep doing this, I think I can live to 102."

Then there was the coddie neophyte, Iris Hirsch of Columbia, who had come to the Flower Mart to perform children's songs with her partner, Diane Perry. Ms. Hirsch, possibly mindful of the fact that Bill Clinton tried a coddie and went on to the win the presidency, decided to sample the fried cakes sold by the Covenant Guild Inc.

"It's . . . interesting," she said bravely, after biting into the concoction. "It almost tastes like a crab cake."

Garrett Fitzgerald, a 6-year-old from the Arcadia neighborhood in Northeast Baltimore, was bitten by the gardening bug at his first Flower Mart two years ago. It was then that the student from St. Francis of Assisi parochial school on Harford Road purchased a maple sapling, and received two hostas as a bonus. The plants are thriving, and Garrett wanted to buy some more.

Unfortunately, there were no hostas to be found this year. The Hunting Ridge group from West Baltimore had switched to geraniums, much to Garrett's dismay. To make up for the lack of hostas, the volunteers gave him a flower, which he passed on to his year-old sister, Clara Jeanne Marie. The baby held the bloom in her fist as she slept through much of her first Flower Mart.

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