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Herb Festivals: A True Community Event

6/16/2009 10:43:01 AM

Tags: Herb Festival, Sage Rosemary and Thyme Garden Club, Samurai Sage, Botanical Garden, Travel, Oklahoma


How can an herb festival in a town of 26,000 draw a crowd that’s well over 20,000 strong? To know the answer to that question, you’ll have to contact Mary Anne Potter, founder of the event that has been growing since 1993.

The festival is held the first Saturday of June, and is hosted by the Sage, Rosemary and Thyme Garden Club. I was fortunate enough to be in Ponca City, Oklahoma, (about four hours to the south of our offices here in Topeka, Kansas) for the weekend and was happy to visit the festival and meet Mary Anne.

Mary Anne
Photo of Mary Anne

The event is held on the grounds of the Cann Memorial Botanical Gardens, a 10-acre historical botanical garden located in Ponca City and donated by Elsie Cann Brown, in honor of her mother, Mary Cann, who loved gardening. I couldn’t help but think, as I walked through the truly lovely, peaceful gardens, that a daughter couldn’t pay a better homage to her mother than this.

Ponca City
Photo by Adam Gault, Oklahoma Today Magazine

The nicely displayed booths were full of plants, potting sheds, quilts, herbal vinegars, soaps, bird houses, (I bought one for a wedding present and now wish I had gotten several more) baskets and more from nearly 100 vendors who came from throughout the region.

I wasn’t able to attend any of the educational seminars that accompany the festival, but they sound enticing and are held in the beautiful, historic Cann home on the garden’s grounds (which the event’s proceeds help support).

I liked so much about this event. First, it made people happy—you could see it on the faces of people stopped at the booths, on the sidewalks, and especially on people schlepping plants and packages back to their cars—and that’s a great thing, especially these days.

I also loved that it is a truly heartfelt celebration of herbs and gardening, maintained year after year by Mary Ann Potter and her energetic cohort in the Sage, Rosemary and Thyme Garden Club. And I loved that it was an event of which the Ponca City community is justifiably proud.

Herb Festival
Photo by Adam Gault, Oklahoma Today Magazine

The sense of civic involvement and appreciation was practically palpable there, and I think that’s a factor we often leave out in thinking of such events. It isn’t just about the herbs (although thank-you-thank-you-thank-you for that), it’s about the community and that amazing web of connections that are formed, challenged and (mostly) strengthened by such huge undertakings.

We hope you’ll let the world know about your herb or gardening event through our online calendar, available here (or by checking the homepage and scrolling down the left side to “Calendar Events” in the “Herb Basics” box).

And if you hear of such an event in your community, let us know. Then be sure to attend. I think you’ll be glad you did.

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