While Montpelier Mansion programs have been moved offsite during restoration at the historic house museum this year, one annual event will nevertheless be held at its regular place. The 17th annual Montpelier Festival of Herbs, Teas and the Arts is held outdoors on the grounds of the mansion and is scheduled this year for Saturday, April 27 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
With tours of the mansion ruled out this year, the festival will offer activities that highlight the mansion's grounds, which cover about 70 acres, according to Holly Burnham, a museum educator at Montpelier Mansion. Some of those outdoor offerings include a hands-on history playground, guided nature and herbal remedy walks and giant kite demonstrations and kite flying opportunities in the large field that lies between the mansion and Route 197.
"We are offering different things that help feature the beauty of the grounds this year," Burnham said.
More than 30 vendors will offer plants and herbs, art, bath products, home and garden items, toys, jewelry and food.
The West Indian-American Kite Association will show their giant kites, and festivalgoers may bring their own kites to fly on Montpelier's expansive grounds.
A lecture tent will be set up for talks on vegetable gardening, herb gardening and aromatherapy, and Andrew Pengale, president of Maryland University of Integrated Health (formerly Tai Sophia Institute) will lead an herbal remedy walk, pointing out naturally growing herbs and their health benefits.
Naturalist Timothy Wasserman leads another guided walk along a path to a wooded area near Muirkirk Road to explore plants and some local history.
The Blast in the Past hands-on history playground is usually open only during the summer, but some of the interactive displays will be ready for kids to explore at the festival. Different stations present aspects of 18th-century life, such as a marketplace, town square and a farm. An African American history area presents a glimpse at the culture of colonial blacks through instruments and a story circle. Kids can learn to milk a (pretend) cow, dig in a garden, maneuver a wheelbarrow and grind corn with a large mortar and pestle.
Closed for tours, the mansion will be open for one festival favorite: Tea will be served in the east wing from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the hour. The Tea Trolley, a Pennsylvania-based tea shop that regularly provides teas at Montpelier, will offer a tea sampler of sandwiches, sweets, scones and a pot of tea for $13. Tickets for individual seatings can be purchased in advance online after April 15 at the festival page on pgparks.com and a few tickets will be available for purchase at the festival.
Art is part of the festival's name, and with the Montpelier Arts Center sharing the grounds with Montpelier Mansion, there's plenty of art to go with the herbs and teas. Budding artists can sketch and paint with members of the Laurel Art Guild, and the arts center will have an arts tent with an oversized bluebird sculpture ready to be painted with bright colors and designs, as well as a chance to create origami and paper flowers.
Resident artists will have their studios open and demonstrations, including raku firing, watercolor and printmaking, will be held all day. There will be a vocal performance from 2 to 3 p.m.
Montpelier Festival of Herbs, Tea and Arts is Saturday, April 27 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., rain or shine, at Montpelier Mansion and Montpelier Arts Center, 9650 Muirkirk Road. For information, call Montpelier Mansion at 301-377-7817, or the Montpelier Arts Center at 301-377-7800.