Saturday, July 14, 2012

The lavender party is underway in Armada

Photo courtesy of Gabriel's Garden.

The raspberries are red but everything else at Blake's Orchard and Cider Mill in Armada is some shade of lavender -- as the family farm on Armada Center Road is hosting the Michigan Lavender Festival, now through July 15.
The weather is hot and you'll need to dress lightly but it is worth the trip. Besides, there is no shortage of ice cold lavender lemonade and ice cream.

"This is awesome," said a customer with red cheeks, who had stepped into the barn for a glass of the house beverage. I followed her lead only I topped it off with a scoop of ice cream, which I might add, was fantastic. 
Before polishing off my lemonade lavender float I toured the grounds of the festival. Among the vendors I had the pleasure of meeting was Mary Orlando, 50, of Leonard, Mich., owner of The French Market Place (www.frenchmarketplaceonline.com) who has been participating in the festival since the beginning. Ten-years ago, Jennifer Vasich, author, aroma therapist and creator of Gabriel's Garden line of herbal bodycare and her husband Michael started the festival as a means of introducing people to the grandmother of herbs and the related products offered by area merchants. 

Now it's a summertime tradition.

"You've heard of the expression you have arrived?" said Orlando. "Well I think Jennifer Vasich has arrived. She's made people's awareness of lavender much greater."

Not to mention creating a festival unlike any other.

Lavender cookies.

Lavender tea towels.

Baby clothes and pottery all inspired by the lovely shade of lavender.

"We've even got lavender jade," said Orlando, holding up a silver ring featuring a lovely purple stone made by GotAllYourMarbles.com.

Nearly 100 artisans and 80-plus booths can be found in the open air marketplace set up on the grounds of Blake's Orchard & Cider Mill. "Without a doubt, there is something for everyone," said Jennifer Vasich. 

At left is a tile made by one of the artists on display.

Blake Farms Orchard & Cider Mill is located at 17985 Armada Center Road in Armada. The lavender festival runs 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., now through Sunday. Free parking, admission only $5, and kids 12 and under are free. For more information, visit: Michigan Lavender Festival or All Things Lavender

If you have a glass of lavender lemonade chances are you're going to want another, and another. Here's the recipe courtesy of Gabriel's Garden.

Lavender Lemonade

2-1/2 cups water 
1 cup sugar 
1 tablespoon culinary lavender buds
2-1/2 cups cold water 
1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice 
Ice cubes

In a large saucepan bring water and sugar to a boil. Remove from the heat; add lavender. Cover and let stand for one hour.
Strain and discard lavender. Stir in cold water and lemon juice. Serve over ice. 
Yield: 6 servings.

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