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24th annual Green Thumb festival returns this weekend

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The St. Petersburg Green Thumb festival comes back this Saturday and Sunday at Walter Fuller Park in West St. Pete.

The event from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. both days features more than 200 educational and environmental exhibits and vendors. Some 35,000 people visit the two-day festival each year.

Families with children can stop by a large craft tent where kids can make a good half dozen different crafts and sit in the shade while experts demonstrate various gardening techniques, show off live animals or put on environmentally themed shows.

Homeowners can stop in for free mulch. There are also free butterfly plants for up to 500 attendees each day.

Items for sale at vendor booths include just about any plant imaginable from exotic orchids to bamboo and bonsai trees. There are vendors selling herbs, sauces and honey. Some sell handmade crafts like yard ornaments, wind chimes and outdoor furniture.

The environmental celebration also has all the feel of a festival environment with carnival foods like kettle corn, frozen lemonade and funnel cake.

The festival is situated in the expansive Walter Fuller yard adjacent to a recreation center and playground. A flower show is held inside the rec center.

Dogs are welcome at Green Thumb and can stop for a drink at any number of dog-friendly vendor booths where proprietors often put out dog bowls and hand out treats. There’s also a dog park at the North end of the park to let the four-legged friends off the leash for a while.

Green Thumb started in 1986 in order to meet the requirements for the Tree City USA Award. St. Pete has been a recipient of that award ever since. The first event was at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve and kicked off its innagural year with 30 vendors and 12 environmental groups.

The festival was moved to Walter Fuller the following year in order to both expand and to encourage events in parks besides the popular waterfront and Boyd Hill.

Originally held in early April, the event was moved back a couple of weeks to coincide with Earth Day.

The festival celebrated its 20th year in 2011. It’s now in its 24th year.

Parking for the event is free, but it can be crowded. Parking attendants help usher traffic through a large onsite parking lot at the park. Other parking is also available along the street surrounding the park.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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