Applications are now being accepted for the annual Marigold Garden Contest, and they're due in June.

Beth Wegner, the coordinator of early literacy programming and of the Children’s Storybook Garden at the Pekin Public Library, is hosting Celebration of Marigolds at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 23, at the library. During the roughly half-hour presentation Wegner will give information about the contest, pass out applications and discuss the history of marigolds. She will also give away different varieties of marigold seed packets so people can start gardens once they get home.

“They have a very ancient history,” she said. “It’s an edible flower and an important one for pollinators. Marigolds are a good companion flower to have in your garden along with herbs. I’ll bring a couple of container gardens I’ve made to show people.”

The deadline to turn in applications is Friday, June 21. People may turn them in at the Pekin Public Library or the Tazewell County Farm Bureau, located at 1505 Valle Vista Boulevard, as they are helping to fund the contest prizes. 

Wegner said she hopes to get more participants for the contest this year. Last year, she said people registered and got their gardens going late. The program at the library is designed to get people thinking about the contest and making arrangements now rather than too close to the Marigold Festival.

Judging will take place the week of July 15 through 19 for adults, schools and in-ground gardens from children. Wegner blocked off the whole week because if the weather is bad one day, she will be judging on another day that week. Thenchildren who have entered the contest with their small garden or container garden should plan to meet from 10 to 11 a.m. on Saturday, July 20, at the library so Wegner and someone from the Farm Bureau can judge. There will also be a small reception with fruit and muffins after gift baskets are handed out to the winners. 

There are several prize categories. People may choose to enter in the small garden or container garden category, a mixed garden with some marigolds catergory, or a garden of mostly marigolds catergory. Businesses, schools and adults may enter, too. Winners will receive a cash prize in those categories.

Children will mark an age category from pre-school through sixth grade. Although Wegner rarely gets junior high or high school aged children to enter, she said they are welcome and need to state his or her grade level on the application. Winners who are school aged will receive a prize basket.

For those community members who are not sure of how to go about starting a garden, Wegner is offering a program called Storytime for Families from 6 to 7 p.m on Thursday, May 23. She said this free program will be about worms and composting. At the end of the program, she will give away free plants and seeds to participants.

She also offers a Storybook Garden class geared toward those in kindergarten through third grade. It is free and meets at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, June 7, through Aug. 9. The class will not meet June 14 due to a library event.

These classes are what Wegner called “family-style.” Siblings come along with the child who wants to take the class, and they end up helping their own sibling or Wegner. Also, parents need to stay with their children. 

During the classes, they will begin inside with a story and then move out to the garden and tend to it. Children learn how to take care of a garden and how to grow plants.

“I do all this for the kids,” said Wegner. “Gardening is an important life skill. It also helps build a strong community. The kids get to see how we are making our community beautiful and all the civic pride it shows.”