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Updated: 04/12/2014 08:00:01AM

Azaleas, eggs, a Vibe and Queen Bees

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Boxes formerly used to house honeybees and collect honey are now being repurposed. These and other bee boxes, will be for sale, as will merchandise by other vendors at the Saturday, April 19 Spring Azalea Family Fun Festival in Mosaic Park.


The azaleas pictured in front of (from left) Chase Stevens and Jillian and Joe Bustos, will be available for purchase at the Spring Azalea Family Fun Festival that will be held Saturday, April 19 at Mosaic Park.


Virginia Condello (left) and Melony Bell are the founders and partners of the Queen Bee Box Company. The boxes are provided by Bell, whose husband, Robby, is a beekeeper. When the boxes are no longer used to house bees and collect honey, they are turned over to Condello who decoratively paints them.


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Expectations are high regarding Saturday, April 19 and this year’s Spring Azalea Family Fun Festival. Inspired by Bartow’s slogan, “City of Oaks and Azaleas,” the Spring Azalea Family Fun Festival, now in its second year, is a quality of life event project of the Greater Bartow Chamber of Commerce, presented by Spath Jewelers.

Set for the day before Easter, Saturday, April 19, the day kicks off with the annual Kiwanis Club Easter Egg Hunt at 10 a.m. at Mosaic Park. (If planning on bringing children for the hunt, make sure to be there on time.) Afterward, the Easter Bunny will visit with kids and pose for photos.

Following the egg hunt, festivities will move to the bandshell at the park, with music, all day entertainment, lots of food, crafts, vendors and demonstrations.

Vintage Vibe will be joining the family fun-filled day this year, an eclectic upscale market for the collectors of the curious features “enchanting goods and soulful creations,” according to Vibe organizer Trish Pfeiffer.

“Vendors at the Vibe are those who love to be artsy, pickers, junkers, refurb experts, and above all, inspired by their inner being to invent, create, play and transform the world around us through our creations,” said Pfeiffer.

Among those vendors will be the Queen Bee Box Company, owned and operated by Virginia Condello and Melony Bell. The former is the communications director at the Bartow Chamber of Commerce, the latter is a Polk County Commissioner. The company offers wooden boxes (that have no top or bottom) formerly used to house honeybees and honey. The boxes are painted by Condello often with cute, humorous images.

The idea for the boxes being repurposed came from Bell after she had recently returned from a trip to California, where she saw similar boxes. She shared the idea while bicycle riding with Condello.

“I was intrigued, but not enough to do anything about it,” said Condello. Part of the reason, she said, was because she had not painted since high school. “I really didn’t know if I could do it or not.”

At first, the two just whitewashed several boxes. That served as the impetus for Condello to try her hand as an artist. Since then, the boxes have proven popular, but not necessarily the way the two pictured.

“A lot of the boxes we sold people put them in their homes,” said Bell. The original thought was that people would put these boxes in gardens.

Regardless where the boxes are placed, both woman are pleased their boxes are finding favor, because rather than destroying the boxes, usually by burning or ending up in a landfill, they are now a source of beauty and pleasure.

Other events

The festival will also feature the free “Leap of Faith” GospelFest, at the bandshell. Performances will start at 10:15 a.m., and run throughout the day. Gospel groups include the St. James AME Men’s Choir, Sounds of Joy, Psalms 101, The Reflectsons, and a special Easter tribute by Mamie’s School of Dance.

An azalea sale will also be part of the festival again this year. Many varieties will be available for pre-order, or available on the day of the event in limited quantities. Evolve Professional Landscape and Design is in charge of the sale. Plants range in price from $3.50 for a one gallon, to $8.50 for a 3 gallon plant. There will also be Peace Lillies for sale for $10 (dwarf) and $20 (large 3 foot).

In addition, there will be demonstrations from organizations such as Polk County Fire and Rescue, Bartow Police K-9 Unit, and the Polk County Sheriffs Office, which will be doing kids’ fingerprinting. Kids will also enjoy pony rides, a cupcake walk, bounce house, giant slide with climbing wall, as well as a variety of kids games. Plants including trees, fruits, vegetables and mouth-watering food will be for sale.

Plans include an RV exhibit with walk-in tours and boat displays. Anyone interested in Florida-friendly landscaping may get expert advice on how to make it happen from local landscapers and nurseries.

Many vendors are already on board, but Linda Holcomb, Special Events Coordinator for the Greater Bartow Chamber of Commerce, is looking forward to more ­signing up.

“The Chamber and Spath Jewelers — the Presenting Sponsor — are planning on offering of food, demonstrations, exhibits, games, entertainment and anything to do with nature and spring at the Azalea Festival,” Holcomb said.

“We want to create a family day in Bartow around the Spring season, with lots of families participating in fun activities,” said Holcomb. “We had a good beginning last year, and this year should prove to be even bigger and better.”

Hopes are it will become one of Bartow’s most popular events.

“We hope a lot of families come out. It’s going to be a great tradition for Bartow.”

To learn more

Want to be a vendor? Call Holcomb at the Greater Bartow Chamber of Commerce at 863-533-7125. Also call the Chamber to order azaleas and other plants. Order forms are available at, or visit the Chamber office at 510 N. Broadway Ave.

Those interested in becoming Vintage Vibe vendors should call Pfeiffer at 863-640-1024.

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