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5 things to look for at this year's Baltimore Flower Mart

The annual Flower Mart, one of the oldest running festivals in Baltimore, brings fervent floral fans together for a weekend that marks, for many, the official start of spring in the city.

Many consider Flower Mart a hallmark seasonal tradition, and a chance to, quite literally, stop and smell the roses.

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This year’s festival — which will take place May 3 and 4 — will undergo a reawakening of sorts, as new leadership plans to reconfigure this year’s event to reflect its original themes and purpose with a modern flair. Here are five things to expect at this year’s Flower Mart at Mount Vernon Place.

1) More spotlight on its history

Lance Humphries, the executive director of the Mount Vernon Place Conservancy — the group that has assumed ownership and agency of this year’s festival — said organizers have focused heavily on rededicating Flower Mart to align with its original themes.

After digging into its history with newspaper articles, the group found that the Women’s Civic League, the original Flower Mart coordinators, sought to encourage citizens to plant flowers and vegetables in their home gardens as well as in vacant lots in the city as early as 1911.

Humphries said the group hopes to stress a message of sustainability this year and wants festival attendants to walk away inspired to work on their own “green” projects at home or take on new lifestyle habits meant to better the environment and beautify the city.

“We’re going for this charming, old time festival, without a lot of glitz, and with all local things and flower and plant themes,” he said. “I think that will resonate with people — that we’re trying to focus it on its mission.”

2) More local vendors

Humphries said the upcoming Flower Mart will highlight local businesses and their prevalence in Baltimore.

“We want to focus on the assets we have here,” he said, noting that in previous years, many vendors from out-of-state set up shop at Flower Mart. “We’re also adding crafts and art and things like that, but it has to be made by the person who’s selling them, and it has to be about flowers and plants,” he said.

Humphries said about 45 vendors, all local, have committed to showing at the event. Attendants can purchase plants, nurseries, hand-made crafts and jewelry, he said. Beer, wine, live music and food — including from local favorites like Ekiben, Nepal House and The Ice Cream Lady — will also be available throughout both days.

3) More environmentally focused nonprofits

Humphries said his group outlined strict criteria for the organizations that applied to show at Flower Mart. This year, all of the nonprofits will represent environmentally-friendly causes.

“They have to be in the work about greening in the city,” he said. “There are not a lot of festivals in the spring, but this one is about inherently spring. We’re trying to really focus the festival on that.”

Organizations that will run booths at the festival include Baltimore Tree Trust, Baltimore Free Farm and TreeBaltimore.

4) An array of workshops, lectures and other family-friendly activities

Festival goers can enjoy as many as eight free instructional sessions ranging from the basics of urban beekeeping to budget-friendly flower arranging. Other events include a Flower Mart dog parade, a hat contest and performances from the Institute of Notre Dame Choir and the Baltimore School for the Arts jazz ensemble.

Visitors can also check out the newly-restored Washington Monument, which will hold extended hours during the two-day festival.

5) And, of course, the famous lemon sticks

True Baltimoreans know that Flower Mart and lemon sticks go together just like peanut butter and jelly or Old Bay and Maryland crabs (or, let’s be honest, Old Bay and just about everything else).

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There’s some debate about the sticky treat’s origins, but all can agree that lemon sticks are as crucial to Flower Mart’s success as, well, the flowers. The quasi-popsicle consists of a peppermint stick wedged inside half of a lemon.

Despite Mount Vernon Place Conservancy’s commitment to freshening up this year’s festival, Humphries said the Flower Mart’s signature item is here to stay.

“It’s just kind of ingrained into people’s memories of coming to Flower Mart, especially a lot of people who grew up in ‘40s and ‘50s and ‘60s,” Humphries said. “We want people to walk away with that same beautiful, nostalgic feeling.”

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