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Changing the Landscape

The 18th Annual Leesburg Flower and Garden Festival takes place April 19 and 20.

Around 6 p.m., Friday, April 18, 11 landscaping companies will start coming to historic downtown Leesburg. They’ll unpack dirt, fountains, grass, tents, stones and a plethora of other requirements for landscaping and then they’ll start working through the night. By the next day, when the two-day Leesburg Flower & Garden Festival starts, they will have built multiple landscaped yards on the streets of Leesburg.

"We have over 110 outdoor living vendors including landscaping, patios, hot tubs and of course gardening goods," said Rachael Goodwin, the special events supervisor for the Town of Leesburg Parks and Recreation Department, "They all line the streets of downtown Leesburg."

The festival, now in it’s 18th year, draws around 30,000-35,000 people and contains almost every item a person could want for working outdoors. It takes up four blocks in the center of historic Leesburg at the intersection of King Street and Market Street. While the specific vendors for the event are not released beforehand, many come back year to year to show of their goods and sell what they can. Plants range from locally grown items that are known to grow well in the area to rarer, less native items, like venus flytraps. You can also find outdoor furniture from tables to pools or get creative ideas for gardening and tips from local and national vendors.

"There’s a lot of pros and a lot of local nurseries, so you can have the chance to ask questions about plants and they can help you pick your particular plants for your particular needs," said Goodwin. "Plus we have vendors from all over. We have them from as far away as New York and Michigan and as far south as Florida."

THE FESTIVAL ISN’T just about buying flowers and outdoor goods. It is a celebration of spring coming to Loudoun says Goodwin. As such there is music throughout the day, a children’s area and plenty of food vendors. Not to mention that most of the stores in downtown Leesburg stay open and help celebrate the festival.

"It think it is the best event Leesburg does," said Carrie Whitmer, a manager at Lightfoot Restaurant, which is opening its outdoor patio for the first time this year during the festival. "You can actually see it’s spring, everybody is ready for flowers and the vendors put a lot of time and money into it. It’s a great set up and it’s fun to walk around and see all the great landscapes and flowers.

THE EVENT is a great chance for Leesburg and its local business to show off and great chance for attendees to spend a day in the sun shopping, enjoying food and spending time with family.

"This is a great family event, one of the best of the year. This is the one I always tell my family not to miss because I think it’s so much fun," said Linda Conry, one of the owners of Four Shabby Chicks, a home décor shop located on the closed down blocks of the festival.

The family fun includes face painting, crafts for children and a children’s stage for age-appropriate performances on the town green. Parents can take their children to watch hourly shows from Celtic rhythm dancing to the science shows, all for free. There is also a main stage in front of the Loudoun County Courthouse that has more adult-oriented music and performances.

"The children’s stage has a whole area set up for kids," said Stephania Sengpiehl, the owner of the Celtic Rhythm School of Dance in Leesburg, which has performed at the festival many times before. "So while we’re performing people can walk around and see things and there is plenty of stuff for kids to do."

"It really is a family oriented event," said Goodwin, "We encourage people to come down, do some shopping, do some dining and then maybe relax and listen to some music and visit their friends. We want people to really make a day of it."

THE EVENT DRAWS people from all over who wouldn’t normally visit downtown Leesburg and opens up the area to locals. Outdoor food vendors sell food from funnel cakes to hamburgers while restaurants put their best food forward and stores stock up on their outdoor goods.

"We are of course open for the Flower and Garden Festival," said Conry. "We definitely don’t miss it. All the streets are closed off and it is just a huge event. Most of the shops will have their doors open with stuff out on the sidewalk, too."

Whitmer believes that the festival is a perfect way for people to discover that Leesburg is a great historic downtown. "It’s 30,000 people that get to see that we’re a real historic downtown, not one of those fake ones. It’s such a great opportunity to see everything downtown. People can buy flowers, see the stores. We’ve got really great shops downtown and it’s great for people to learn that they are here."

Still most agree that the most impressive part of the festival is the booths that the landscapers set up. Replete with working fountains, fresh grass, fully planted flowers and stone walk ways landscapers show off some of their best ideas at the show allowing patrons to see what they’re company is all about.

"[The landscapers] spend all night setting up and they have little bridges and fountains with water going. They don’t just throw some table out the morning of the show. The actually plant plants and they set the ground up with soil and mulch. They even have little rock ponds and brick patios," said Conry.