JEFFERSON — Garden enthusiasts couldn't have asked for a better weekend to search for their next pet project.
With temperatures in the 70s, last Saturday was perfect for the Jefferson Heritage Tree Council's inaugural Foliage Fest at Jefferson City Park.
A warm breeze rustled through the park's still barren trees on March 12 as a small crowd wandered through a maze of tents brimming with a variety of flowers, shrubs and trees ready for planting.
The tree council organized the festival as a way to educate others about the importance of trees and provide information on how to plant and care for them.
Some of the proceeds from sales will help the council develop future programs for educating others on the city's natural resources.
Last year, the group completed a tree inventory and canopy cover study and planted 120 trees along Jefferson's streets. Mary Dugan, tree council chair, said funds from Foliage Fest will help create a better communications network, specifically addressing the council's website. Dugan said she wants the site to eventually serve as a go-to place for tree information, from planting to mulching.
The four-hour festival featured products from five nurseries and tunes from five bluegrass bands, including Jefferson's Center Stage Bluegrass Band, Curley Maple, The Red Oak Southern String Band, River's Edge and the Gopher Everett Band.
Other local groups, including the Humane Society of Jackson County, Boys and Girls Club of Jackson County, Habitat for Humanity and the Georgia Forestry Commission also attended.
Maysville folk artist Scott Peppers brought his artwork to sell, including his signature polka-dotted rooster. Peppers began painting in 1994 and uses all recycled material to craft his colorful creations. His work is displayed in galleries including the Foxfire Museum in Rabun County. "I make my living with this," he said. "I love doing it. I can get painting and the whole day's gone and I don't even know it."
As the unmistakable twang of a banjo drifted through the trees, adults chatted and enjoyed barbecue and children laughed and squealed while racing around the playground, all reminiscent of a small-town, country fair.
Maysville resident Margaret Holifield and friend Sue Carlson, from Jefferson, were among those spending the afternoon searching for more greenery to adorn their yard.
Holifield said she had sifted through the many displays, finding a few treasures, including a flowering quince, to take home with her. "I think they're unusual and the camellia that's over there, I think they're gorgeous," she said pointing to a plant sprouting rich pink buds.
Carlson had purchased a red maple tree and thornless blackberry bush and was still looking for more to fill her "great big yard" that she said needed a bit of sprucing up.
Jefferson residents Beth and Richard Cathey were also having luck finding new additions for their small patch of earth.
"We just thought it would be a fun day to come out and see what was available here," said Beth Cathey. "Our yard is pretty well-established, but when you really like to dig, anything with roots is always of interest."