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Lewiston Gardenfest is a colorful reason to drive to, not just through, town

LEWISTON – The arrestingly colorful, often fragrant and always inspirational Lewiston GardenFest is celebrating its 10th year June 20-21 along Center Street in the village of Lewiston.

More than 60 vendors are expected to offer everything from garden art to, of course, plants. And, 10 generous Lewiston residents also have agreed this year to open their private gardens for the public’s enjoyment.

The free event is presented by the Lewiston Garden Club. All proceeds – culled from vendors’ fees and sponsorships – are returned to the community for civic beautification and scholarships.

The festival is completely organized by volunteers and Barbara Landree will be chairing it this year, as she has for the past five years.

“It’s a labor of love for all of us,” she said. “We are a small organization – only 35 members. I work with a core group of about 15, who have an enormous amount of talent and responsibility. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate my committee.”

Landree said the increasingly popular interactive Garden Talks will return throughout the GardenFest at the community tent, located in the center of the festival route.

Mark Yadon of Mischler’s Florist and Greenhouses will discuss Fairy and Miniature gardens at 11 a.m. June 20. Master Gardener Carol Ann Harlos will discuss fresh June herbs at 2 p.m. that day. Harlos chairs Herb Gardeners of the Niagara Frontier.

On June 21, Linda O’Connor of Summertime Blooms will demonstrate simple floral designs culled from the home garden at 11 a.m. And Bob Bracikowski of Opportunities Unlimited will work with cacti at 2 p.m. that day.

In addition, representatives from Cornell Cooperative Extension, the Hosta and Daylily Society and Bonsai Society will be available throughout the weekend to answer gardening questions, and the Cooperative Extension also will provide soil sample analysis.

The public is invited to participate in the festival by entering the Container Garden Contest. Contestants prepare a special arrangement in a traditional container or any creative vessel and bring the container entry and a stand for display to the hospitality booth at Fourth and Center streets by 9 a.m. on June 20. Festivalgoers then will vote on their favorite containers throughout the weekend and prizes will be awarded. Applications and more information on the festival are available at www.lewistongardenfest.com.

GardenFest is sponsored by the Town and Village of Lewiston, Niagara Falls Bridge Commission, Modern Corp. and DiMino’s Lewiston Tops Markets, as well as dozens of local businesses.

Landree recently talked about the festival and the Lewiston Garden Club, in general, which is always looking for new members.

“The festival is a way of showcasing our community,” Landree said. “I always say, ‘You don’t drive through Lewiston, you drive to Lewiston.’ ”

How has the festival changed in the decade since it began?

Growth. It’s become a popular primary festival in the area.

It’s more than doubled in size. We’ll have around 60 vendors and when we started, we had about 20 vendors and no sponsors. But we get new vendors all of the time and they love coming here. They say this is one of the best festivals they’re involved in, because they’re treated so well and the community welcomes them.

Why did you start the festival?

We had been looking for ways to increase funding for our organization, which is not only dedicated to the beautification of Lewiston, but also helps others in need. We give scholarships. We have also helped with other projects, like in Haiti after the hurricane and in Africa, planting trees for a women’s organization, for example.

And, we wanted to get the business people on Center Street to be part of this festival, too, as well nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity, and others like the Lewiston Public Library and Old Fort Niagara – things that benefit our community.

Are you always looking for new Garden Club members?

Absolutely! We generally meet the third Monday of the month, at 10:30 a.m. at the Lewiston Public Library. We’ll have information on membership at our hospitality tent at the festival. And you can be any level gardener to join.

I had no gardening skills when I joined. Someone encouraged me to join because they knew I liked to putter around in the yard. I had done a lot of hiking and knew about wildflowers, but that’s it. But, as you get to know people in the club, you’re constantly learning. We have speakers come to our meetings and they might talk about herbs, or native plants. We also take field trips.

What else does the garden club do beside this annual festival?

We have three primary areas we’re responsible for in the village – Hennepin Park, where the gazebo is, and the raised beds there; the Lewiston Historical Museum; and the Lewiston Public Library. There’s a watering schedule and we each sign up for a week and water and deadhead and weed and just make sure they look nice. Some have adopted other areas, as well, along Center Street.

We’re also relandscaping Center Street. We decided that since we’ve been gaining a little more money, we needed to find ways to spend it that would nurture the whole area. Some areas are looking a little old and tired. So we relandscaped Fourth Street up to Fifth Street and Fifth Street through Sixth Street, and next year, we’ll go to Seventh and Eighth Streets.

Gardening work is never done.

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