Posies, presents and penuche
Whether the azaleas have peaked or whether they are past makes no difference to the bloom of the Flowertown Festival. What’s important is the vibe of the event and the spirit of the people who make it happen as well as of those who come to enjoy it all.
This morning I donned my jeans, walking shoes and fanny pack, and headed out to enjoy my 36th festival. I looked forward to a delightful day and looked backward to the wonderful treasures I’ve gotten on this 77 year-old Azalea Park site for three dozen springs. This historic place also has an inspirational background for the three day celebration of various arts in our community.
It was a handful of local women who some 40 years ago wanted to have an art show not only to have the chance of selling their work, but to do some good for the town and to promote art itself. Their effort has always reminded me of that Edgar A. Guest poem, “It Couldn’t Be Done.” People put down their idea but the women persisted, even though that first year they had to lean paintings against a hedge, it rained and they lost money. But to paraphrase Guest, “They started to sing as they tackled the thing that couldn’t be done, and they did it.”
And look at it now. This nationally recognized festival reflects town history in its name, its display of beauty and talent and the benefits it brings to Summerville and her citizens through the efforts of individuals, businesses and civic organizations. Not bad for something that couldn’t be done.
My personal memories focus on the gifts I’ve bought at the festival, both for family and friends and for our home. On our hearth sits a heart pine pelican with folded wings, rendered by a chain saw and another of this favorite bird is done in flight with wings wafting in the breeze under a garden trellis. Our entry way is lit by a stained glass lamp done in burgundy and cream panels. My study wall is graced by a print of the late Frank Cuthbert’s cottage with his abundant flowering window boxes done by local artist Mary Ann Bridgman. Our backyard features a myriad of birdhouses in shapes of barns, cottages and country inns. Hanging baskets of silk flowers brighten our screen porch. One of my favorite finds was the least expensive – a brightly colored cloth bag with a strap over the opening and elastic closing the hole at the bottom. It’s used to hold plastic grocery bags. And it’s used every day. Another memorable house present is the two dozen balsa wood rose buds I got last year. Each delicate petal is carved and stained from a deep scarlet to a rich cream.
My favorite treat here each spring is penuche, a fudge type candy made with brown sugar, butter, milk and vanilla – sometimes with added pecans or walnuts. It was a favorite in my family growing up and is hard to find. But it’s usually here at the festival and it’s the first thing I look for each year. And when I find it, I always think of it the same way I think of the festival.
How sweet it is.