By Jason A. Smith
A successful tradition in Henry County is expected to continue today, bringing thousands of visitors to the area.
The 31st Annual Geranium Festival, sponsored by the Lions Club of Henry County, will be held on the Square in McDonough, from 9 a.m., to 5 p.m.
Approximately 380 vendors are expected to display their wares at the event, according to festival coordinator Diane Reed. Those vendors, she noted, include 30 food vendors, and a large number of artists of varying types.
"They run the gamut, from oil painting ... to wooden crafts," Reed said. "They're really innovative things that you won't see anywhere else. We have about 60 percent returning vendors, and about 40 percent new ones this year."
The event will also include a community business expo and a children's area along with free vision screenings available on the Square.
Approximately 700 geraniums will be on display during the festival. They are being brought in by the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension in Henry County, located in McDonough.
Extension coordinator Susan Howington said she expects the flowers to go quickly, during the event.
"I just hope that, by 3 p.m., we don't have any geraniums left," she said. "I think we're going to do really good."
One of the vendors, Ellis Berryman of Carousel Crafts in Jonesboro, sells birdhouses and bird feeders with his friend Jack Carrera. Berryman said the two have participated in the festival for the last 12 years, and are looking forward to doing so yet again.
"We're both retired, and this is a hobby for us," Berryman explained. "We have fun at it, and make money from time to time, but getting out and meeting people is the main thing."
Dean Garrard of Birmingham, Ala., came to the festival with her baby-nursery items in tow, something she has done for the last 15 years. Garrard, who makes all of her merchandise by hand, said her business allows her to devote time to the "lost art" of sewing.
"I'm at the sewing machine about 12-14 hours a day, and I love it better than anything," said Garrard. During the time she has been a vendor, she has observed "a lot of changes" in McDonough.
However, the 68-year-old said those changes are all positive.
"It's a very historical town, and I just love what [they] are doing here," she added.
Fellow vendor Celia Mathews, of Ginny's Fudge and Nuts, has been a part of the Geranium Festival for the last decade, and traveled from Cleveland, Ga., to participate again this year. Mathews, who brought 35 flavors of fudge with her to the festival, said she appreciates the feeling of "community" she experiences when she comes to McDonough each year.
"We see a lot of families come out, and it's a wholesome event," said Mathews. "Some events have a carnival atmosphere, and it just doesn't bring a family-oriented feel to it. This one does."
In addition, Mathews noted certain elements of the Geranium Festival are as much a part of the tradition of the event as the geraniums themselves.
"You know the church ladies are going to be here with their baked goods," she added. "There are things that people count on. We'd love for it to be a two-day event, but there's a healthy anticipation with it just being one day. People know we're at the Geranium Festival, rain or shine."