Their gamble paid off.
When the Women's Civic League members voted last year to move the annual Flower Mart to War Memorial Plaza from its original site in Mount Vernon, traditionalists were furious. The annual spring festival had endured around the base of the Washington Monument just about every year since 1911, for heaven's sake.
But yesterday, as hundreds of workers poured out of downtown buildings to stroll through the mart and get lunch, even the strongest opponents of the move were conceding that the day was a success.
"I had voted against it. I said that Mount Vernon is the Flower Mart, but I think we'll be back here next year," said Carolyn R. Simmons, the civic league president. "I expect we'll [make] about $30,000 this year."
Last year, because of rain and slow foot traffic in Mount Vernon, the civic league posted a $1,000 loss on its annual fund-raiser. Money from the event goes toward the maintenance of a historic building at 9 N. Front St., next to the Shot Tower.
The league also showed some new flexibility this year in scheduling a rain date and using it, postponing the mart from Wednesday to yesterday. Its faith was rewarded with a cloudy, somewhat humid day in which the sun shone for several hours.
"It's a different feeling here, it's not as pretty as Mount Vernon where you have solid blocks of beautiful facades," said Jeanne M. Davis, curator of art exhibits at City Hall. "This is a different feeling and there's not as much green. But it's the same old Flower Mart booths, the same old ladies."
"Well," said Patrick Davis, her husband, "maybe they'll start a new tradition here."
Rebecca Krimski is banking on change to take the Flower Mart into the next century.
The grandniece of Liz Godwin, the 77-year-old chairwoman of this year's mart, Ms. Krimski said she is one of only two of the civic league's 600 members under 50.
Said 62-year-old Joan Gipe, selling lemon sticks for 75 cents: "Believe it or not, we're the young ones."
A few years ago, Ms. Krimski, 33, went to a civic league luncheon to pass an afternoon with her great-aunt. Before she knew it, she was a league member. Next year, she'll chair the Flower Mart.
"The league is literally dying off; each month's newsletter is like an obituary column," she said yesterday. "Helping to keep the city clean is a nice thing, but if we're going to get younger women to join, we need [a more pertinent] cause."
Ms. Krimski said that if she can persuade the board to adopt a charity such as AIDS research, she'd have an easier time recruiting younger women for the league.
Selling flowers in a booth nearby was a woman from Brooklyn who's been working the Flower Mart longer than Ms. Krimski has been alive.
"They say only the good die young, and I'm too ornery for that," said Vye Parks, selling hanging baskets for $15 each. "At 92, I don't have much time to grow things in the back yard. I play Scrabble on Friday nights, cards on Saturday and go to church on Sunday. On Monday I volunteer at Harbor Hospital, and on Tuesday night I go to the Elks Club bingo."
Yet, when May rolls around next year, she plans to be selling flowers for the good ladies of the civic league.
"That's what the Flower Mart is all about," Ms. Godwin said. "The beautiful flowers, crab cakes, lemon sticks and ladies in pretty hats will all be here once again."