Flower Mart show set to go for tomorrow

In break with tradition, mayor will be a no-show

May 14, 2002|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

In a break with tradition, the Flower Mart show will go on tomorrow without the mayor of Baltimore - but as a consolation, it will not have to pay for using city streets and services.

Organizers of the flower show were miffed when city officials told them recently that Flower Mart@Mount Vernon Ltd., the nonprofit organization that runs the celebration, would be charged $2,500 in advance for transportation and police services. The event, a city tradition for 91 years, had never been charged for such services.

An intervention

But yesterday, the mayor's office intervened and said the fee amounted to "overzealous bureaucracy" and would be waived for the pageant in the center of Mount Vernon, a spokesman for Mayor Martin O'Malley said.

Because of another commitment, O'Malley will be missing from the horse-drawn carriage in the noon ceremony that signals the opening. He will be the keynote speaker at a National Security Agency conference in Salt Lake City, addressing federal officials on homeland security, aides said.

The mayor accepted the speaking engagement last fall, his office said.

Carol K. Purcell, the Flower Mart chairwoman, said she regretfully accepted the mayor's explanation for not attending.

"It may be the first time we haven't had the mayor, but he has a big job, and he wears a lot of hats," she said.

Notables in carriage

Purcell and Frederick L. Bierer, a lawyer and president of the Flower Mart, will ride in the horse-drawn carriage, joined by William Donald Schaefer, former governor and mayor, and retiring University of Baltimore President H. Mebane Turner.

Bierer estimated that the Flower Mart costs about $100,000 to put on. Since the 2000 mart, the event has come under the wing of the nonprofit group, which was organized after the Women's Civic League, the group that founded the event and ran it for the rest of the 20th century, decided to cease its efforts.

The civic league decided to stop running the event because of its aging membership.

The league was originally a group of suffragettes and social activists interested in pasteurizing milk and improving health in the city. The members founded the Flower Mart as a prelude event for the Preakness horse race.

"You need can-do in this city," Purcell said about the staging of the Flower Mart. "There will be something genteel for everyone to enjoy the day."

This year's Flower Mart theme is "Different in Every Sense." It will continue into the early evening, ending at 8 o'clock. Admission is free.

Traffic detours

Motorists should expect detours for much of the day on Charles Street, from Centre to Read streets; and Monument and Madison streets, from St. Paul to Cathedral streets.

Lemon peppermint sticks, a traditional crowd-pleaser, will be offered for sale. Also planned are hat and fantasy hair contests, entertainment by school groups, a tea poured by the Junior League at the Engineering Club, an urban fruits and vegetable market, an animal kennel and about 180 booths.

Purcell said she and other organizers are determined to keep the fair alive.

"There will be a 2003 Flower Mart," she said.

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