BARBERTON: He walks the Lake Anna chrysanthemum garden like a police officer walking a beat.
Bill Aulenbach makes sure the mums are all in place and none is getting out of line.
Aulenbach, who is semi-retired from Aris Horticultural Services, formerly Yoder Brothers, is responsible for the selection and growing of the mums for this weekend’s 22nd Mum Fest.
The mum cuttings used to create the garden are donated by Aris every year. The festival features 20,000 chrysanthemums in and around the northeast corner of Lake Anna Park.
The mums planted in the garden have been there all summer.
Aulenbach, one of the founders of the Mum Fest, said his goal each year is to create a garden that has a carpet effect. He checks the size of the flowers, their height and color each day.
“If they fade too fast, that isn’t good,” he said, referring to a Jacqueline variety. “All the varieties are named after women. This particular variety is actually named after my wife.”
A lot of prep work goes into the garden.
It is mapped out by Brian Coffman, a design architect who works for the Barberton Parks. Aulenbach handles the selection process, fertilization and weeding.
“I have to select varieties that are going to be in flower by late September rather than mid-September or the third week in September. Mum Fest is always the last Saturday and Sunday of the month, but that could move things off by as much as a week on whether to plant on June 18 or June 25.”
Aside from making sure the mums don’t peak ahead of schedule or too late, Aulenbach has to decide how much of each variety should be planted and how it will be spaced. This year, there are 21 varieties.
“The flowers are planted in 10-by-10 [foot] groupings and some are 14-by-14. The larger patches size up very well and use less plants, then we get the colors to match,” he said.
The chairperson of the Mum Festival said this weekend is predicted to be color perfect.
“It’s really hard to get that dead-on color on festival weekend,” said Lisa McLean of Barberton’s Beautification Program. “They usually peak after the festival and, every once in a while, they are ahead of schedule for color. But this year, we should be right on the money with great color.”
Activities will include ice carving, sand sculpture, canoe races and a diaper derby race for babies. Other activities include water-ski shows (12:45 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday and 12:30 p.m. and 2:45 p.m. Sunday) and lumberjack shows (noon, 1:45 p.m. and 4:15 p.m. Saturday and 11:45 a.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Sunday).
There will be performances by the ETC Choir, New Horizons band and a saxophonist. A family that makes art out of balloons, a magician and Ronald McDonald will also make the rounds.
A silent auction will be held from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Lake Anna Hall, 542 W. Park Ave., a Swiss steak dinner from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday at Lakeview United Methodist Church, 211 Third St. NW, and a book sale from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday at Barberton Public Library, 602 W. Park Ave.
“You can literally come and not spend a nickel,” said Steve Kelleher, president of the Barberton Historical Society and one of the 15 Mum Fest committee members.
Kelleher likens the festival to a Norman Rockwell painting.
“You see Lake Anna and you see the mums being trucked away in carts and people walking,” Kelleher said. “It’s just an old-fashioned town festival and yet the things that are there attract families.”
A presale of the potted mums will run from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday.
For more information or a complete schedule, call 330-848-6653 or go online to www.cityofbarberton.com.
Marilyn Miller can be reached at 330-996-3098 or firstname.lastname@example.org.