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Northern New England Home, Garden & Flower Show

At the Fryeburg Fairgrounds, May 14 through 16

This show is traditional home show and part craft fair, with a huge dose of gardening seminars and cooking demonstrations mixed in. (click for larger version)
May 06, 2010
"By four o'clock Friday she was all sold out," Ficker recounts.

This year's event opens on Friday morning and runs through Sunday, May 14, 15 and 16.

This will be LeBlanc's third year at the show and she's one of the headliners. The event is part traditional home show and part craft fair, with a huge dose of gardening seminars and cooking demonstrations mixed in. LeBlanc will be giving a presentation each day as part of the All Things Growing Garden Seminars. In 2007 she was the keynote speaker at the Common Ground Country Fair, MOFGA's (Maine Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association) premier event in Unity, Maine.

Among those with whom LeBlanc shares the gardening seminar schedule are: Geof and Gina Hancock of Alma Farm in Porter, Maine, who will talk about Community Supported Agriculture; Jim Reinertson of Purely Organic in Portsmouth, who will speak about organic lawn care; Jeff Haines of Atlantic Pest Solutions Company in Kennebunkport, Maine, offering green solutions to your insect problems; and Beverly Hendricks of DeerWood Farms in Waterford, Maine, who will give advice on weed-free gardening.

With nearly 300 exhi- bitors at last count, the show stretches across six acres and is in seven exhibition halls buildings. Coming at an ideal time for northern New England residents, home gardeners can browse at 11 garden centers, with everything from perennials and annuals to shrubs and trees available for purchase, all ready to be put in the ground.

For those looking to renovate their homes or build anew, there will be plenty of vendors on hand to explain the latest in energy efficient products, and to explain how to use those power tools that will get you started on your project. The Smart Home Owner Seminar Series takes place at the Old MacDonald's Farm building each day, with talks touching on everything from solar hot water heaters to eco-friendly septic designs.

"If you're starting out with your first home, or if you're remodeling, it's a good place to go. It makes sense to be there," Ficker says. D & L Amusements is providing kid-friendly attractions and, of course, there will be fair food.

As any home gardener knows, growing your own vegetables is only the first part of the equation. If you don't use what you grow, then all your hard work just ends up in the compost pile. After growing those sweet, juicy heirloom tomatoes, you're going to need some great recipes to get the full benefit of your labor.

Running simultaneously with the gardening seminars, the Meet the Chef cooking series offers a mouth-watering demonstration of recipes from some of New England's most notable chefs.

Among those sharing their culinary skills are Peggy Evans' of ABC Foods who will bake cinnamon pumpkin bread, and Chef Gordon Breidenbach of the Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa, who will cook up sole almondine with green grapes and fresh tarragon. The cooking shows are emceed by Steven Learned, who began his own culinary adventures by the side of his father, the noted Chef Phil Learned, formerly of the Balsams Grand Resort Hotel.

There will also be some familiar local faces — Chef Brian Coffey, now owner of Beal Street Inn in Littleton, Chef Jim Davis of the Stonehurst Manor (Bang's Island Mussels with Tomatoes, Basil and White Wine), and some known to a larger audience through the technology of television, such as cookbook author Chef Mary Ann Esposito.

The show is a labor of love for Ficker, who works on the event 10 months of the year from her home office in Fryeburg. Ficker owns two other events with her business partner, Cynthia O'Connor: the Seacoast Home Garden & Flower Show at the Whittemore Center at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, and the Maine Home, Remolding and Garden Show at Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland, Maine.

The Northern New England event is Ficker's baby, and she puts it on with the help of her small staff and family members. She first held the home show at the Ham Arena in Conway eight years ago, but it quickly outgrew that venue and moved to the larger space of the fairgrounds. Each year something new is added — the Meet the Chef series was added in 2005, and this is the first year for the kiddie rides.

Ficker's enthusiasm for the show is infectious. She bubbles over with superlatives when describing some of the participants.

"She's a hoot and a half," she says of Doris B, an 85-year-old grandmother from Peabody, Mass., whose Azorean Portuguese background comes through in her cookbook of old-fashioned, comfort food recipes.

"Beverly Hendricks has the most beautiful day lilies," she gushes about the owner of DeerWood Farms who will speak on 'lasagna' garden layering for a weed-free garden.

As the host of "All Things Growing" on Valley Vision, Ficker recently interviewed Christy Hemenway of Gold Star Honeybees in Bath, Maine, who outlined some of the challenges that face the world's bee population, which is rapidly declining. Hemenway will be at the show.

"You would think it would be boring, but it was fascinating," Ficker says of the information Hemenway provided.

Ficker was not always so enthusiastic about insects. She says she grew up in the city and was terrified of all things that flew and crawled. Now she is on close terms with some of the most loathsome garden pests. Sitting at her desk in her home office, she brings up a photo of a huge, bright green hornworm resting on a half-eaten tomato. She found the hornworm in her vegetable garden, much to her dismay.

Her own foray into gardening began in the 1970s, when she moved to Mount Washington Valley. She remembers her first attempt at a garden, and how she and her young family watched a woodchuck mow down their pea plants. She didn't let the furry fellow discourage her. She became an avid reader of Mother Earth News and Organic Gardening.

"The more you learn," she says, "the more fun it is." She notes the challenges of gardening, particularly last year, when most gardens were hit with the blight that was wiping out tomatoes. LeBlanc, she adds, will talk about the blight and how to take of care of plants hit with the insidious, airborne fungus.

General admission is $8, with seniors $6 and those 6-16 $4. Ages five and under get in free. Advance tickets for the show are on sale at the Hannaford in Conway, Bridgton and Windham, Maine for $5. There are discount coupons available at www.homegardenflowershow.com. Gates open at 11 a.m. on Friday; at 10 a.m. on the weekend days, and close at 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The show ends Sunday at 5 p.m. Channel 8 out of Maine will be broadcasting live cut-aways during its weekend morning show.

New vendors and participants are signing up all the time, keeping Ficker on her toes, so check the website for updates, too.

"We make it work," Ficker smiles, "then I take a month off."

After that, she says, "It's summer, which we all live for."

During the summer she'll be in her own vegetable garden, which is located behind the house in Fryeburg she shares with her husband, Kim. If you happen to pass by, don't be surprised if you hear operatic arias wafting through the air. It's what she listens to, courtesy of her backyard speakers, when she's weeding her garden.

Varney Smith
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