Flowertown Festival ready to bloom

Summerville YMCA Marketing Director Liz Graham (from left) and YMCA employees Nicole Estep and Nicole Martine mark off vendor spaces at Azalea Park on Wednesday as they prepare for the Flowertown Festival.

Summerville — The lines are being drawn. The tents are being pitched. And a few vendors already are putting out their merchandise for the main event.

Like the azaleas that are thriving throughout the Summerville park of the same name, the hopes of thriving business, live entertainment and fun for the whole family are in bloom, too.

Summerville YMCA employees were marking vendor spaces Wednesday with flags and paint for the organization's flagship fundraiser, the annual Flowertown Festival. The festival runs Friday through Sunday, and more than 200,000 people are expected to attend, said Liz Graham, the festival's arts and crafts coordinator.

There are about 205 arts and crafts vendors registered, and about 100 business, civic and gourmet specialty booths. The festival will offer some new features. For instance, children and adults alike can ride along the side streets of the festival in the Little Blue Choo to take in the sights, Graham said.

"You can't just hitch a ride because you have to pay for a ticket, but at least it gives you a chance to see what's going on without walking," she said. It's $2 per ride. Attendees can park for free on streets throughout the downtown area, although Graham recommended parking at one of the nearby churches, such as Bethany United Methodist Church on West 3rd Street.

There will be six golf carts circling the park, too, to transport the handicapped and elderly.

A few scattered vendors started to set up shop Wednesday, but the majority will come today. The festival will go on, rain or shine.

Roger and Genll Armour decided to put out their items early: wooden novelty signs with messages such as "Just Another Day in Paradise" and "No Dancing on the Tables." They run a business in Gainesville, Fla., called A Touch of Splash and sell the colorful signs, most with a warm-weather motif, at craft fairs around the country. But the couple has returned to the Flowertown Festival for more than a decade. They generally sell several thousand dollars worth of merchandise, and it doesn't hurt that it's in a picturesque atmosphere with nice people, Roger Armour said.

Summerville residents Bill and Pat Lam also are starting to set up their booth. The couple has sold high-end bird feeders at the festival for nearly 20 years. Pat Lam's company, What Goes Around Comes Around, makes them out of silver, china and crystal. Bill said they have repeat customers from all over the United States.

"If I man my booth, then whatever we make will be profit, because we're local. We don't have to pay for a hotel or any travel expenses," he said. "It's about as good as it gets."