The First Parish Plant & Craft Fair ~ A Short History and What to Expect on May 18, from 10 am to 3 pm

Just some of the plants that will be on offer at the 66th Annual First Parish Plant & Craft Fair on Bedford Common from 10 am to 3 pm on Saturday, May 18 – Image (c) JMcCT, 2017 all rights reserved – Click to view a larger image

By Jean Balfour

The original Plant Fairs took place in the 1950s at the Fitch Tavern, where parishioners Frank & Peg Joslin lived.

At that time, most of the sources for plants were from many members’ gardens. It was fun to think that your lavender phlox that is such a big patch now came from Peg Joslin. She had a nice rock garden, and you could count on pots of interesting flowers. Abigail Bacon (yes, the upstairs front room at the church is named for her) brought herbs of many kinds to sell in the yard in front of the woodshed. Emily King would spend hours digging and potting at Betty Balfour’s house. Betty was happiest when she was gardening. In later years my mother and I worked together, finding some of our favorite plants to ready for the Fair.

There were cookouts at the stone fireplace in the back yard of the tavern. Many times there were sketches that Charlie Schwerin tacked to the front of the woodshed for sale. And there were the paint wheels in the shed that kids could spin and splatter with paint to create terrific pictures. Messy fun.

At the end of the day, the leftover plants were gathered up and taken in wheelbarrows to Mimi Adler’s, across the street from the Daugherty’s, where she would “heel them in” to save for next year.

The 2019 Plant & Craft Fair

The Plant Fairs are now on the Common and include crafters along with heritage perennials from long-time friends of the fair, tomato and veggie seedlings, and colorful annuals and shrubs that we purchase.

Among the donors of heritage perennials are two very special gardeners who now live in Carlisle – Jan Sacks & Marty Schafer, son of Eva Schafer, another of the Fair’s founders.

Marty and Jan spend many hours digging and potting plants that need thinning from their yard. They raise and breed iris and grow unusual plants from seed. And, they share many interesting plants for the fair. Each year, members of the Plant Fair committee members visit the Schafer’s garden to label and price the plants, while finding time to look out over their lovely yard. It is a real treat to be there.

Organized for more than 20 years by Sandy Boczenowski, crafters and artisans are now an important part of the fair. There are booths of all kinds, offering clothes, bags, quilts, jewelry, pottery, wood-working, drawings and paintings, and more. Bedford Common is colorful and festive on Plant Fair Day, with many delights on offer.

First Parish youth are in charge of the bake sale, and the congregation’s commitment to the environment will mean that drinks (fresh water, lemonade, iced tea, and coffee) will be served in compostable cups.

As the ground warms and green shoots show their noses, the excitement of the 2019 plant fair will begin.  Tents and display spaces ‘blossom’ near the meeting house on Thursday, May 16. Then the plants arrive, and the 2019 Plant & Craft Fair will open at 10 am sharp on Saturday, May 18.

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