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By SEAN BARRON



Published: Mon, June 20, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



By SEAN BARRON

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- For the past several years, Joan Susany has found Fellows Riverside Gardens the ideal place to hike and exercise.

She said she finds that section of Mill Creek MetroParks peaceful, safe and attractive.

"It's the prettiest thing we have around this area," the Canfield woman said. "We're blessed to have it."

Joan, her husband, Kirk, and their 8-week-old daughter, Samantha, were among those who spent part of Sunday afternoon at a Rose Festival that took place in the gardens.

Also part of the festivities was a rose judging contest in the D.D. and Velma Davis Education & amp; Visitor Center.

A steady flow of people walked leisurely through the slightly sloped and sprawling gardens during the five-hour festival while enjoying temperatures in the mid-70s and low humidity. The event, sponsored by Friends of Fellows Riverside Gardens, featured musical entertainment, demonstrations, storytelling, a scavenger hunt, a tour and a photograph booth. Miniature roses were for sale, too.

How it's done

Keith Kaiser, director of horticulture, said the main purpose of the fifth annual festival was to demonstrate proper ways to plant, care for, spray and deadhead the many varieties of flowers.

Deadheading is removing dead blooms from a plant, a process that encourages buds to form and new flowers to grow, he explained. The event also was set up to allow people to appreciate what the gardens has to offer, he added.

In mid-June, "roses are at their peak. The public associates roses with us and what we do," Kaiser said.

The scavenger hunt was designed to increase children's appreciation of plants and trees by giving them opportunities to look for specific ones.

Kids and adults enjoyed having free portraits taken with roses filling in the background. The Polaroid shots were enclosed inside a card as a memento for Father's Day.

Other activities included a slide show and lecture by Gordon Vujevic, a park volunteer. He discussed, among other things, the differences between how flowers before 1869 were grown compared to those after that date.

Participants were also treated to watercolor portraits with roses as the theme. Christopher Leeper, a Canfield artist, was on hand with copies of his latest book, "Realism in Watermedia."

Kaiser praised the 20 volunteers for helping with the scavenger hunt and for setting up and removing several displays.

The rose-judging contest, sponsored by the Mahoning Valley Rose Society, was open to anyone who grew minis, mini-floras, florabanda sprays and other varieties, and wanted to submit one. Pat Martinec, the society's president, said four judges selected the best entries from up to 51 categories.

Best in Show

Blue ribbons were given to those in each category, and trophies were given to those who had the best in each category. From those, a Best in Show was chosen and the winner given crystal prizes, Martinec said. Other entries received second- and third-place ribbons.

Many people who came to the event with an appetite left with less of one. A steady line was evident in the center's kitchen, with the attraction being a smorgasbord of herb products made by members of the Girard Herb Society. Samples of salsa, breads, jams, teas and flavored water were available as were cucumbers, carrots and various desserts.

The 6-year-old society, which has 24 members, also has its own cookbook, and educates people on cooking and growing as well as other uses for herbs, explained the society's program committee chairwoman, JoAnne Stringer. The cookbook is available at Homestead Florist & amp; Gifts, 130 Trumbull Ave., Girard.

The Mahoning Valley Rose Society will host a two-day 2005 Top Gun meeting beginning at 6 p.m. July 22 at Fellows Riverside Gardens. The program will feature rose show entries, a contest and speakers, and is open to the public. Reservations are required, Martinec said.

To make a reservation, call Martinec at (330) 755-6348 or e-mail her at pmartinec@zoominternet.net.




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