Flower Mart canceled for 1996 Apathy, infighting cited in decision by civic league

March 14, 1996|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,SUN STAFF

Baltimore's Flower Mart will not be held this year, its 80th edition canceled amid infighting and apathy within the Women's Civic League.

An offer by the city to help the 300-member league pull off the event was turned down.

On Monday, 14 members of the league's 38 directors voted 10-4 to cancel this year's mart, scheduled for May 8 at War Memorial Plaza. The league is vowing to resurrect its beloved, quirkily Baltimore tradition next year.

"We have some ladies that really don't want to go down and work and we have some that are very unconcerned they don't care whether it goes or doesn't go," said Carolyn R. Simmons, president of the Women's Civic League. "The other problem was the two [chairwomen] I appointed. They both resigned."

For a brief time, Ms. Simmons decided to assume the role of acting chairwoman for the mart, but stepped down after the directors began voting to cancel. This month, a fourth member stepped forward, but it was too late.

"I voted not to have it," said Liz Godwin, last year's chairwoman. "The Roland Park group, the Guilford and the Brooklyn group were not going to have anything to do with it because they're getting old. A group from the county said they were short of staff. Our crab cakes and roast beef some of our best sellers were handled by Guilford and Roland Park and they weren't going to do it this year."

Asked how the civic league, which has been holding Flower Marts since 1911, could have become so disorganized, Ms. Godwin said: "I really don't know, but we did. It's been horrible this year. We figured that the Women's Civic League and the Flower Mart have a proud history and it would be too humiliating to fail."

Although Ms. Simmons says she was determined to pull a mart off this year "even if we only had four or five booths," she said it takes nearly a full year to plan.

"You can definitely say there was a lack of confidence," she said. "We needed some people who are not on the board of directors to voice their opinion the girls who bring the flowers and bring the food and staff the booths."

As Ms. Godwin noted, the age of "the girls" may have something to do with the decision to cancel.

The average age of league members hovers around 65 and the group's newsletter has been described as taking on the pall of an obituary column.

Ms. Simmons thought she had solved the problem at last year's mart by naming Rebecca Krimski, 34, to chair the 1996 event.

TC Ms. Krimski promised to bring new energy to the league by recruiting younger members. However, she resigned in December and could not be reached for comment last night.

Beverly Quinones was named to replace Ms. Krimski and resigned sometime in January, saying she needed to devote more time to her family's business.

"I was assured that my departing wouldn't cause the Flower Mart to stop," said Ms. Quinones, who said she voted once to have the mart and once to cancel it.

Personality disputes between leaders in the organization played no small part in this year's chaos, according to several longtime members.

"At one meeting I said: 'Look, this is getting to be terrible. We all like each other and we should keep it that way,' " said Ms. Godwin.

A March 6 letter to Ms. Simmons from Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke promised that the city would do whatever was necessary to help the league hold the mart. Five days later, the league voted to cancel.

Last year, at the city's urging, the event was moved from its long-held spot at the base of the Washington Monument in Mount Vernon to War Memorial Plaza. Although traditionalists cried sacrilege, the move was credited with helping the Women's Civic League turn a profit.

"It's in the city's interest to see that this continues," said Mari B. Ross, an assistant to the mayor. "Whatever their internal problem was, we were more than happy to help them get over the hump. They canceled at the 11th hour. Now, we're waiting to see what they do in the future. We need some rite of passage to spring that we can all enjoy."

Said Ms. Simmons: "The Flower Mart is not dead."

Pub Date: 3/14/96

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