FlowerMart postponed in wake of Freddie Gray protests

Executive Director Aileen Gabbey said the SPCA's annual March for the Animals which was scheduled for April 26 was postponed out of concern for participants' safety in the wake of the Freddie Gray protests.
Executive Director Aileen Gabbey said the SPCA's annual March for the Animals which was scheduled for April 26 was postponed out of concern for participants' safety in the wake of the Freddie Gray protests. (File photo)

Riots stemming from the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody are affecting local nonprofits at a busy time of the year for their galas and other fundraisers.

FlowerMart, the Maryland SPCA's March for the Animals, the American Visionary Art Museum's Kinetic Sculpture Race have been postponed and the Clayworks Bash, a fundraiser for Baltimore Clayworks, is being held onsite, rather than downtown as first planned.


Also postponed was Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens' annual Fallen Heroes Day ceremony in Towson, which was set for May 1, spokeswoman Nita Walden said.

FlowerMart, the 104-year-old event that was scheduled for May 1-2 in Mount Vernon, will be rescheduled, organizers said.


"Because of the upheaval and the state of emergency declared by the governor, we have decided to postpone Flower Mart for the safety of the citizens of Baltimore and the police," said John Valentini Jr., vice president of Flower Mart's board of directors. He said no new date has been set yet.

Valentini said it's the first time since the riots of 1968 in Baltimore that the annual festival, whch dates to 1911,  has been postponed. The event was also postponed when WorldWar II broke out, he said.

The SPCA as already postponed march for the Animals, it's biggest fundraiser of the year.

"We want to be sure that all attendees are able to participate without concern," SPCA Executive Director Aileen Gabbey wrote in a "Dear Friends" letter posted on the organization's website, announcing the postponement of its biggest fundraiser of the year due to continuing protests over the death of Freddie Gray.

Gray, 25, was buried Monday. He died April 19, a week after he suffered a spinal cord injury while in police custody. The incident sparked peaceful marches during the day on Saturday. But as day turned to evening, protests and vandalism of businesses and cars, mainly in the Inner Harbor area, led to 34 arrests and shined a national media spotlight on Baltimore.

The crisis deepened Monday with rioting and looting, the latter as far north as stores on Greenmount Avenue in Waverly and York Road in the Govans area. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake instituted a weeklong curfew from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. City public schools were closed Tuesday and the ripple effects of the riots were felt in Baltimore County, where the school system announced it was postponing and in some cases canceling field trips, professional development and other meetings and events, "In light of recent events in Baltimore City."

The York Road Partnership on Tuesday announced online a volunteer effort to assess damages, help clean up and offer support to affected businesses and activities for children who were out of school.

Community leaders on Tuesday morning toured York Road from Loyola University to the county line and found the doors of the Belvedere Pharmacy smashed and CVS and 7-Eleven stores looted, as well as a Cricket phone store, said Leslie Wietscher, aide to City Councilman Bill Henry, who represents the York Road corridor.

In an interview Monday, Gabbey said the SPCA decided to postpone the march based on televised coverage of protests Saturday and an announcement on Instagram that a "Ride Out for Freddie Gray" bicycle rally was planned in Druid Hill Park on the same day as the March for the Animals.

"I couldn't have that potential event and our event at the same time in the same place," Gabbey said.

At the Handel Choir of Baltimore, managing director Anne C.A. Wilson worried that the Distant Bells concert on April 25 at St. Ignatius Catholic Church downtown would meet the same fate.

"We are aware of the situation in downtown Baltimore and are monitoring to the best of our ability," Wilson wrote in an update on the choir's Facebook page on the day of the concert. "[Interstate] 83 is closed, so our patrons will need to take alternative routes."


The concert started 20 minutes late, and some patrons reported that it took them up to two hours to get to the concert, Wilson said, estimating that about 50 people didn't make it.

Now, North Baltimore-based organizations that are planning to hold galas and other events downtown this coming weekend are closely monitoring developments in the Gray case in order to decide whether they might have to postpone their events, too.

"Saturdays in May are busy times for fundraisers," said Jill Feinberg, a spokeswoman for Mount Washington Pediatric Hospital, which is planning to hold its annual Storybook gala for 600 registered attendees at the Hyatt Regency hotel downtown May 2.

Hospital officials are "watchfully waiting," Feinberg said. "We're approaching it as business as usual, but we're trying to be mindful of the situation. Public safety is the most important thing."

"We're waiting to see what happens," said Sarah McCann, executive director of Baltimore Clayworks in Mount Washington, which is scheduled to hold its Clay Ball fundraising gala at Maryland Art Place on May 2.

Other big events set for this weekend include the annual Flower Mart in Mount Vernon on May 1-2 and the American Visionary Art Museum's annual Kinetic Sculpture Race on May 2.

FlowerMart was postponed one day after Valentini called the violent acts "isolated incidents" and noted that FlowerMart is held in the daytime, while the protests have been after dark.

Besides, Valentini said Monday, "Our whole reason for being is to promote civility in the city."

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