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In full bloom: Noblesville to present first peony festival in the state

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When Noblesville native Kelly McVey began planting peonies 15 years ago, she fell in love with the flower. She began selling them at a farmers market and quickly learned how much most people seemed to love the state flower, too.

“Why don’t we celebrate this flower?” said McVey, who is planning the inaugural Indiana Peony Festival from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 22. “I thought maybe I wouldn’t be the only one and a slight group of people would feel like I did about the peony, and almost 10,000 people have said they’re interested in attending this festival.”

From left, Parker Flowers owner Pam Parker and Indiana Peony Festival President Kelly McVey pause in Parker’s peony fields. (Photos by Chris Whonsetler Photography)

McVey has received correspondence from as far away as Wisconsin with questions about attending the event.

“We are in the middle of the state of Indiana, so let’s celebrate this beautiful flower and really let Noblesville own this thing,” McVey said. “It’s been super exciting to see the enthusiasm of this.”

The festival will take place in Seminary Park, which has approximately 100 peony plants.

“Back in the fall of 2019, we planted (approximately) 150 peony bushes in the park, and I’ve wanted to have a peony festival forever,” McVey said. “It’s our state flower and nobody celebrates it. We just really need to have a festival. The parks department asked me if I would be involved in helping plant peonies in the park, so once we did that, it became obvious that this cute, adorable Noblesville park needed to be the place to establish the festival I’ve been dreaming about for 10 years.”

Mayor Chris Jensen said Seminary Park is the perfect place for the festival.

“Having our recently renovated Seminary Park as the backdrop, the event will be a great way to bring our community and the thousands of expected guests together to celebrate and share knowledge about our state flower,” Jensen said.

The festival will include food and drink vendors, eight floral farmers selling different kinds of flowers, boutique and art vendors, and festival organizers will sell peony plants and roots. The Hamilton County Master Gardeners also will be available to answer questions about peonies. Admission is free and pre-registration isn’t required. There also will be classes on how to use peonies in bouquets and a competition for local peony growers to enter their peonies to be judged.

Downtown Noblesville stores plan to offer specials during the day, such as giving away floral candles, a peony tea party and peony poses at the yoga studio, among other items. A trolley will transport people between downtown Noblesville and Seminary Park.

“I am a Noblesville native, and this is really important for me. I want our downtown to thrive with this whole peony concept and to grow this every year,” McVey said. “I want to decorate our downtown in peonies.”

The Karl Rosenfield peony, which is a deep red color, and the Shirley Temple peony will be for sale in plant form during the festival. Peony plants and roots will sell for $20 to $30, but McVey said the price of peonies can be up $120 per plant for rare varieties.

After the festival, McVey said she plans to help the City of Noblesville grow a peony footprint throughout downtown.

“We want to have all these different peony gardens and peony areas in Noblesville that people can come see and experience,” she said.

For more, visit indianapeonyfestival.com.

Peonies are ready to bloom in Indiana.

The man behind the flower

Laurence D. Baker, a commercial peony farmer, was responsible for the peony being selected as the Indiana state flower in 1957. The peony is native to China, but Baker, a state representative at the time, convinced the state to name the peony as its flower.

Baker’s family will attend the Indiana Peony Festival.

“His grandkids are in their 50s,” Indiana Peony Festival organizer Kelly McVey said. “They’re going to be there, and the mayor (Chris Jensen) is going to give them a proclamation on that day honoring them and their part in making this the state flower.”


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