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Noblesville Resident Organizes Indiana Peony Fest in 2nd Year

(Photo courtesy of the Indiana Peony Festival)
Noblesville’s Indiana Peony Festival CEO Kelly McVey of Noblesville welcomes visitors to the 2021 festival. This year’s festival is Saturday at Seminary Park.

When 10,000 people attended the inaugural Indiana Peony Festival in Noblesville in 2021, attendance was more than organizers could have ever imagined.

So this year, the Peony Festival returns this weekend with more activities, including a Peonies in the Park 21-and-older preview event on Friday night and a Brunch Crawl Saturday morning before the festival, which is open free to the community 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the historic Seminary Park in downtown Noblesville.

The festival’s creator and CEO Kelly McVey of Noblesville said adding the two new events “does more to promote our wonderful Noblesville downtown retail businesses and restaurants.”

In 2021, after being cooped up, she said, “I think people were very anxious to get out and do something following a year of pandemic precautions, but last year’s success has made people very excited for this year’s event.”

McVey said Smith’s Jewelers on the historic Courthouse Square and Duke Energy are the two presenting sponsors and provided the support needed to expand the activities to offer the Brunch Crawl and the Peonies in the Park event.

The free daytime Indiana Peony Festival showcases more than 50 vendors and offers free shuttle service from dedicated downtown parking lots.

The Brunch event is $6 per person and includes a Brunch & Blooms button, crawl map, discounted brunch items and special peony promotions.

The Peonies in the Park VIPP (Very Important Peony Person) ages 21-and-older event, at $100 per person, is 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and features peony-inspired dishes and drinks from more than 10 Noblesville eateries while getting a first pick of peony plants and stems and shopping from featured vendors. Restaurants include Alexander’s on the Square, Debbie’s Daughters Bakery & Cafe, Grindstone Public House, Matteo’s Ristorante Italiano, 9th Street Bistro, Noble Coffee & Tea, Primeval Brewing, Spencer Farm Winery, Texy Mexy, The Nesst and Cardinal Spirits. VIPP guests can bid on peony-inspired art by local artists and jewelry by California jeweler Galatea for the festival. Guests also take home a signed, commemorative 2022 poster and Indiana Peony Festival tote bag.

To get ready for this festival, it’s taken many people.

“We have been working for nearly six months to bring everything together — a website, social media, sponsors, donors,” McVey said. “Meanwhile, our peony farmers have been carefully tending to their plants year-round to ensure beautiful blooms.”

(The Times photo by Betsy Reason)
Jack Martin, his wife Chris Martin, and their daughter, Molly Martin, plant peonies along Conner Street in April in preparation for this weekend’s Indiana Peony Festival in Noblesville.

Some may have noticed the growing number of peonies here in Noblesville.

The Indiana Peony Festival has planted more than 1,000 bushes at over 20 local businesses, she said.

“One of the locations is Seminary Park. We teamed up with the Noblesville Parks Department and put a group of volunteers together to plant over 200 peonies in the park,” McVey said. The organization’s first planting, of about 120 plants, at Seminary Park was in the fall of 2019. The remaining peonies were planted this year.

The Indiana Peony Trail Project goal is to put Noblesville on the map as “the” peony destination. Peonies were planted at business locations last fall. “The plants are still young and many don’t bloom for a few years, so we can’t guarantee the peonies will be in bloom for the festival but over the years as the plants mature there will be blooms in the park and all over Noblesville from mid-May to early June,” McVey said.

The Trail Project locations include Godby Discount Furniture & Mattress, Nexus Apartments, Randall & Roberts Funeral Homes, Noblesville Pocket Park, Bolden’s Dry Cleaners, Mustard Seed Gardens, Noblesville Preservation Alliance’s Preservation Hall, Hamilton County Government & Judicial Center, Hamilton County Courthouse, Debbie’s Daughters/12 Stars Media, Nickel Plate Arts, Mill Top, Riverside Cemetery, Noblesville Public Safety building, Noblesville City Hall, Jackson Law Office, Seminary Park, Center Stage Guitars, Tom Wood Volkswagen in Noblesville and SMC Corp.

“We will also continue to increase the number of businesses on the Peony Trail, and we look forward to promoting the trail and the types (of trees) we have planted throughout the city,” she said.

“Keep Noblesville Beautiful was an integral part of the Peony Trail Project in helping us with some of our larger peony plantings.  They helped organize volunteers and helped us at many of our peony trail locations.  The Indiana Peony Festival works hand-in-hand with Keep Noblesville Beautiful,” led by chairperson, local architect Darren Peterson.

For instance, that’s why I saw Keep Noblesville Beautiful volunteers Jack Martin (KNB treasurer), and his wife, Chris Martin (KNB vice chairman), and their daughter, Molly Martin, planting peonies in early April. Keep Noblesville Beautiful helped sponsor with a donation, said Jack Martin, a downtown Noblesville insurance agent. “We volunteered to plant 12 of the 44 planters downtown. Last fall, we planted 60 peonies at Riverside Cemetery. Hope to do the same again.”

So what are McVey’s personal top-three favorite things to do?

  1. “Seeing attendees of all ages enjoy the beauty of the Indiana State Flower, it’s definitely a multi-generational event — kids and grandmas, young couples, high school kids — and really something fantastic for us to be hosting in our hometown. $20)
  2. “The vendors who raise these amazing, beautiful flowers,” she said. “There is an art to it; the way in which they grow and gather the stems that are uniformly breathtaking. And they lovingly share all of their peony knowledge with anyone who asks.”
  3. “The local artists who capture the beauty of the peony — We’re alibaba-always astounded at how they can capture its delicate nature on canvas,” she said. Many of them will have works for sale at the Festival, plus there are several local artists whose works are currently on display at Noblesville City Hall.

She offered a bonus after her top-three favorite things to do: “Walking around Noblesville this entire month, seeing the banners, the peonies in planters, the special effort from our participating businesses and restaurants promoting the event … it makes me so very proud and happy,” McVey said.

As a member of the community, why should I attend this festival? “It is a fantastic community event with something for everyone,” she said. “In addition to vendors with decor and art as well as peony plants and stems, there are kids activities, entertainment by Kelly Yates and Copperpot, fantastic food and beverages … and a chance to get out and enjoy beautiful and historic Seminary Park.”

(Photo courtesy of the Indiana Peony Festival)
Guests enjoy Noblesville’s Indiana Peony Festival in 2021 at Seminary Park. This year’s festival is Saturday at the park.

Kelly (Anders) McVey graduated from Noblesville High School in 1982. Prior to launching the Indiana Peony Festival, Kelly McVey started her own business in 1990, at age 26, a national pharmaceutical-returns company called Med-Turn, then after selling the company in 2003, she launched her own magazine called After 40, which later became known as Kit Magazine, from 2008-2021. She retired from the magazine in May 2021 after the inaugural Indiana Peony Festival to pursue the non-profit organization and its efforts to celebrate Indiana’s state flower and beautify her community full time. Also, McVey is a board member for Noblesville Main Street, a committee member for Keep Noblesville Beautiful, a committee member for Spotlight on Art, and works part time for the Noblesville Parks Department.

She is married to Mike McVey, a 1982 graduate of Sheridan High School. Their daughter, Lindsey McVey, a 2011 grad of Noblesville, is chief marketing officer for the Peony Festival. Lindsey McVey recently returned to Noblesville from Dallas where she worked for ad agency Commerce House. In June of 2021 she started an online retail boutique called Just Lagom, which she will be opening as a brick-and- mortar retail location in downtown Noblesville in summer of 2022. She also volunteers as marketing and promotions manager for Noblesville Main Street, and serves on the board of Keep Noblesville Beautiful.

Kelly McVey offered some background on how this Peony Festival got started:

She discovered her love of peonies more than 10 years ago when she and her sisters decided to farm flowers on a 10-acre plot in Cicero.

In researching potential planting options, she quickly learned about the peony’s historical significance in Indiana and its diversity, hardiness and beauty, when she initially only considered it a “grandma flower,” she said.

After hosting peony parties for her friends and luckily being seated next to a peony farmer at a leadership banquet, McVey began to share her peony passion with everyone she knew, bringing forth the opportunity to plant peonies at Seminary Park. Then her idea for the Indiana Peony Festival as a destination event began to bloom.

Proceeds from the Indiana Peony Festival special events support beautification projects in Hamilton County.

– Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com.

Want TO GO?

What: Indiana Peony Festival in its second year.

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Rain date: Sunday.

Where: Seminary Park, 350 S. 10th St., Noblesville.

How much: Free.

What else: Peonies in the Park VIPP (Very Important Peony Person) ages 21-and-older event, at $100 per person, is 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and features peony-inspired dishes and drinks from more than 10 Noblesville eateries. A Brunch Crawl Saturday morning is $6.

Info: www.indianapeonyfestival.com