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Master Gardener festival features hundreds of plants for sale, wildlife shows, cooking demo

This 5-year-old owl, which was hit by a car and sustained injuries that caused it to be non-releasable, is one of the several animals that will appear at the Master Gardener Volunteer Plant Sale and Festival.

This 5-year-old owl, which was hit by a car and sustained injuries that caused it to be non-releasable, is one of the several animals that will appear at the Master Gardener Volunteer Plant Sale and Festival.

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Georgia Department of Natural Resources biologist Pete Griffin holds an 8 1/2-pound, 16-year-old bald eagle at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center. Shot in the right wing, the bird underwent a partial wing amputation and is non-releasable. Griffin will bring the eagle to the Seventh Annual Master Gardener Extension Volunteer Plant Festival and Sale, as part of the DNR educational ambassador outreach program, on Sept. 29.

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A baby alligator will serve as a DNR educational ambassador at the Master Gardener Volunteer Plant Sale and Festival.

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This alligator snapping turtle, from the Tennessee Aquarium, will be at the Master Gardener Volunteer Plant Sale and Festival.

You don't have to have a green thumb to enjoy the Seventh Annual Master Gardener Extension Volunteer Plant Festival and Sale.

In addition to the hundreds of plants, shrubs and trees for sale, the event, set for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 29 at 1400 Parker Road, features wildlife programs, a cooking demonstration, kids crafts, a K-9 demonstration and several arts and crafts vendors.

Master Gardener Extension Volunteer Debbie Altman said the festival draws families looking for a pleasant afternoon activity as well as individuals passionate about growing plants.

"I plan for the plant sale from the moment it's over until the next one," said Altman, who has helped organize the fundraiser for the Master Gardener program for several years.

"To me it's about being able to talk to people and get them excited about growing things they thought they couldn't grow."

Altman said Master Gardener Volunteers donated about 500 of the plants and the remainder will come from local nurseries. Butterfly bushes, maple trees, althea (rose of Sharon), chaste trees, helleborus, swamp hibiscus, American beauty berry, salvia, lantanas and forsythias are just a few of the species for sale.

Fruit shrubs such as figs, raspberries, pomegranates and blueberries will also be available.

Altman said she encourages the public to grow plants they can consume, such as herbs and fruit trees.

"I enjoy telling people that if they use the fresh stuff, it's so much better" she said.

Master Gardener Volunteers will also be on hand to answer any questions the public has about growing plants outdoors and indoors.

"A lot of times people will bring stuff. Lots of times we don't know what it is but we say 'We'll find out,'" Altman said.

In between plant shopping, festival visitors can take in wildlife programs presented by Georgia Department of Natural Resources biologist Pete Griffin. As part of the DNR Educational Ambassador program, Griffin will bring a bald eagle, an alligator, a snapping turtle, a gopher tortoise, an indigo snake and an alligator.

Youth from the 4-H program will offer face painting and balloon art, as well as free children's nature crafts, and they'll be selling baked goods and Chick-fil-A sandwiches.

Other activities include chef Alain Bouzouba from Seven Gables Restaurant conducting a cooking demonstration titled "Fusion Melting Cuisine;" local artist Orrin Morris presenting "Fall Wildflowers in Rockdale County;" Rockdale County Sheriff's Office offering free child fingerprinting and a K-9 unit demonstration; and a performance by dance group Swagger Crew Fit Kids.

Get your holiday shopping done early by making a purchase at one of the many vendors on hand, such as Early Bird Quilters, Wildflower and Pearl Lady jewelry and Bishops Woodworking, as well as artisans who make stained glass, wind chimes and paintings.

The Seventh Annual Master Gardener Extension Volunteer Plant Festival and Sale is a fundraiser which supports Master Gardener Volunteer programs including the children's garden at Lighthouse Village, the arboretum at the Georgia International Horse Park, a garden program which generates vegetables for the food bank and the 4-H program.

Altman said that one of her main goals is to inspire people in the community to become Master Gardener Volunteers. Master Gardener Volunteers must take classes to become certified and donate time to the community helping with gardening projects and offering gardening advice to the public.

Altman said she became certified as a Master Gardener Volunteer in 2003.

"It's a good way to meet people and have fun with plants," she said.