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FlowerMart's Baltimore charm draws thousands to Mt. Vernon

Baltimore Book FestivalWashington Monument

Lifelong Baltimore resident Richard Greene has been coming to FlowerMart for nearly 50 years.

The 63-year-old retired state employee, who now lives in Tuscany-Canterbury, is one of approximately 40,000 people expected to attend the two-day festival, a Baltimore institution that runs through Saturday in Mount Vernon.

"I just like the color of it," said Greene as he eyed the scene. "There's interesting people, crazy getups. It's probably the most quintessentially Baltimore festival."

The Women's Civic League of Baltimore began FlowerMart in 1911 to mark the start of spring in the city.

Since then, people from across the state have flocked to the historic Baltimore neighborhood for the event, which this year features more than 100 vendors selling flowers, food and other items. Also planned are live musical performances, dance numbers and the popular Grand Hat Contest, in which participants show off their elaborate headwear.

Carol Purcell, president of the nonprofit that now runs FlowerMart, said the event draws Baltimore residents and brings out others who have a connection to the city.

"It really captures the spirit of Baltimore," Purcell said.

This year, FlowerMart organizers are dealing with the extensive repairs underway on the Washington Monument, which is at the center of the Mount Vernon neighborhood.

The structure is in the middle of a $5 million renovation that began in January and is scheduled for completion in summer 2015.

As a result, vendor booths — usually set up around the monument — had to be pushed back. Other popular events typically held in Mount Vernon, such as the Baltimore Book Festival, plan to move to other neighborhoods during construction.

"We decided to stay here because this is [FlowerMart's] home and we're not that large," Purcell said. "It still fits well here."

The minor inconveniences didn't trouble many festival-goers.

Janet Seeds, an Eastern Shore resident who was raised in Northeast Baltimore, said her memories of the festival are comforting.

"It just reminds me of growing up, my childhood," Seeds said.

Her favorite part of the festival? The lemon peppermint stick — an old-time treat enjoyed by sucking citrus juice through sugary candy.

"We used to see them all the time at bazaars and festivals when I was a kid," Seeds said. "It's nice getting back to that."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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