HerbFest 2017 Celebrates 17 Years in Wake Forest

— Susan London • susan.london@rolesvillebuzz.com • April 2017

Herb of the Year Is Cilantro

Cilantro – it’s low in calories and cholesterol free, and it gives ceviche that extra kick. No wonder it has been chosen herb of the year for the 2017 Wake Forest HerbFest, where lovers of the unusual tasting plant will be able to buy plenty of it, along with all other things green and organic.

HerbFestSet for back-to-back weekends April 21-23 and April 28-30 and located at 525 S. White St., this laid-back, pet-friendly festival is an annual favorite among locals. Marking 17 years in Wake Forest and 23years overall, it’s the longest-running herb festival in the United States, according to Bob Johnson, who organizes the event with his wife, Elizabeth.

Similar to past years, HerbFest 2017 will feature an impressive variety of certified-organic, non-GMO herbs and heirloom vegetables, as well as zone 7-friendly perennials, for sale. Vendors, live music and seminars also are included.

The first Friday of the festival runs from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and because Bob Johnson orders only a limited supply of plants for the whole event, it’s usually the busiest day. Serious shoppers come out early to snap up their preferred items. Then, Johnson said, they often come back another five times during the course of the event once they realize they have room in their gardens for more.

Saturday, April 22, will still be hopping. For the first time, radio station WPTF will broadcast its “Weekend Gardener” show live from the event from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., students from Franklin Academy’s music department will play a variety of live jazz and rock selections. Choral and combo groups also will perform, and students will provide free face painting from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The event typically draws thousands of visitors from around the Triangle.

“People know they’ll be able to find many unusual herbs that grow well in the area and can’t be easily found anywhere else,” Johnson said, adding that the non-GMO aspect is a big draw.

Karen Guy, an avid Wake Forest gardener, has been attending the festival for more than 10 years.

“I like supporting local growers. We buy almost all our herbs and several vegetables during HerbFest, and we’ve also picked up some perennials like peonies,” Guy said. “It’s a nice event that has grown every year.”

Around 25 vendors will be on hand, including Paul’s Woodcarving and Creations and Champion Windows. Most are local and feature products that tie in with the festival’s theme. Products include aromatherapy, cosmetic soaps, craft items and culinary blends.

When the festival wraps up on April 30, any leftover plants will be donated to area schools. Proceeds from the festival will go to the Graham Johnson Cultural Arts Endowment, named after Bob and Elizabeth Johnson’s late son.

The event hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m Fridays and Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays. Admission is free. Visit HerbFest.net, or follow the festival on Facebook @HerbFest for more information.

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