Flowermart blooms in Mount Vernon for 93rd year

The event includes such traditions as a maypole dance, lemon sticks and, of course, lots of flowers

May 06, 2010|By Jacques Kelly, The Baltimore Sun

So what makes the people attired in summery hats and pastel colors gather at the base of Mount Vernon's Washington Monument each May?

The 93rd annual event, known as the Flowermart, manages to combine people-watching with nostalgia in a spectacular 19th-century architectural setting. Around the edges are pots of geraniums and petunias, children being pushed in strollers and the occasional well-bathed and well-combed dog. It's where Old Baltimore comes out of the attic for a thorough spring airing.

"It's a genteel, good-news event," said the Flowermart's director, Carol Purcell. "The Flowermart brings the community together in a civilized way. In fact, the civility of the event is the sell of the Flowermart."

This year's mart begins at 11 a.m. today. Students from the Bryn Mawr School will open the day with a traditional maypole dance. Also scheduled are appearances by Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings Blake and Maryland first lady Katie O'Malley.

"What makes me happy is all the different people coming together in one place," said Purcell, the event's chief organizer. "People like having a function they can bring four generations of a family to that is not a beer garden."

One of the core attractions is a booth where members of the Friends of Mount Vernon Place sell the event's trademark sweet, defined as the lemon stick, a fresh lemon with a peppermint stick inserted.

"It's one of those traditions that is definitely worth preserving," said L. Taylor Hubbard, a Tyson Street resident who has sold these confections as a means of raising money for the square's upkeep. "You stand in the booth and hear stories about the neighborhood. After all the exodus to the suburbs, the Flowermart draws people back."

The organizers say the mart is a great way to get in the spirit of Mother's Day. Pink or white carnations are $3 apiece at the information booth at the Washington Monument.

Purcell said the event (once two words, "Flower Mart," before a modern consolidation) underwent a happy reinvention a decade ago. She said that her group worked to bring in more flower sellers so that booths overflow with color and plants, with botanical offerings from the lowly petunia to the exotic orchid. It is a day when you can be a patriotic Marylander and buy a black-eyed Susan (the state flower) or be more adventurous with a variety of bearded iris.

Longtime Flowermart patrons say it is a day to celebrate the wisdom of the city government in the 1960s, when it declared Mount Vernon Place Baltimore's first historic preservation district.

"Mount Vernon is the architectural pearl of the city," said Purcell.

It also a day to enjoy the flowers (annuals and perennials) sold from stands and tables set up around the base of the Washington Monument.

"Herbs are always popular," said Sean Radebaugh, a member of the family whose Towson greenhouses supply many of the plants sold at the base of the monument. "It's Mother's Day weekend, too, so I would predict we will be selling fresh flower arrangements and tubs of potted plants."

If you go

The 2010 Flowermart will take place from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. today and Saturday at Mount Vernon Place along Charles Street, from Centre Street north to Madison Street. The event is free. Go to flowermart.org for more information.

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