By Ruth M. Lyon WEST BROOKFIELD- Spring is springing all around us, and this town's green harbinger of the season, the welcoming, happily celebrated Asparagus and Flower Heritage Festival is fast approaching. The event, the one we all know and love, will be here, its green and lovely self, on Saturday, May 18. From 10:00 am. to 4:00 p.m. more than one hundred juried vendors of all things earthy, artisanal and artistic will provide food for thought and the senses - history, gastronomy and the pleasure of your company, all of you, as you meet and greet the thousands of friends of Diederick Leertouwer. In fact, perhaps you'll meet the man who, tradition informs us, brought asparagus to America in 1794, right here in small, scenic, and altogether remarkable West Brookfield. And there's free transportation to the common - no long walks necessary. To make your visit pleasant, there's a free shuttle bus all day, from ten to four. You may park your vehicle at the town highway department area (at the junction of Ware, Front and Central Streets). From there, you'll be whisked to the common, no parking problem at all. You'll be welcomed by the festival committee and walk right in to the party of the year, free of charge and open to all. Throughout the day, there's a lively agenda in place. Bring the kids, the grandparents, the whole family or neighborhood, to browse for plants and pleasurable things, enjoy the music, and of course, venture down enticing Asparagus Alley. There you may savor the tasty and tasteful delights of notable vendors, including, of course, a variety of offerings dedicated to the delicate, delectable green star of the show. Meanwhile, the church ladies serve up their home baked pies while the men stay busy serving up the chowder. We modestly state - well, actually brag a little - that this year's array of foods and vendors is especially diverse, featuring variety and creativity to accommodate all tastes. Lunch and munch to the music of the Stable Hands as you witness the joy of this day . Artisans will demonstrate - kids of all ages may wish to help the blacksmith make a nail and stamp it with their initials, or watch a lowly burl of wood or lump of clay being turned into a treasure. There are photographers and potters and artists, all pleased to discuss their work whilst providing affordable art you can take home. There's plenty of food and growers; you'll find handmade jewelry, soaps, body products, candles, garden items, honeys and jams. Authors with books to sign, and did we mention the food? Pull up a hay bale and munch as you enjoy the music and the spectacle of a town kicking up its heels in honor of a venerable vegetable and a Dutchman who lived among us for a few short years.. Ed the Wizard is will be bring his usual bag of tricks and mystify the kids with his wily wizardry. Youngsters and the young at heart will be charmed by the Clowning for Kidz bus full of clowns, ready to amaze and amuse with frolicsome entertainment throughout the day. And yes, The Frogs Will Be Jumping at 1:00 p.m. Line up by then to register, near the fountain, for the contest. There's an art contest for first graders from the elementary school The winners will receive gift certificates from Michael's; just for fun, two winning entries will be made into postcards available free at the festival. All day long, there are free kids' games, face painting, and clever arts and crafts - the fun is in discovering what's new and different to do this year. Additionally, there are asparagus festival tee shirts, cookbooks, and fresh asparagus to be had. The popular festival began as a friendly, small town happening, sponsored by the Quaboag Historical Society and the West Brookfield Historical commission, eighteen years ago. A famous cook volunteered to cook her special chowder. Pies were baked, other savories served. Growers brought plants, flowers, honeys and jams and so on. Artists, artisans and crafts people brought unique and lovely items to purchase and admire. Animals, raised for food, fun or textiles abounded - they still do. Music accompanied the myriad activities, the bustling, busy happy day of celebrating the earth's goodness and its promise. And when the day ended, everyone knew the event was a treasure, to be savored anew each year. And so it has been. In the ensuing years, word has spread, offerings and participants have multiplied. This year welcomes a pleasing blend of returning and new vendors, something fresh and appealing for everyone. Ask the blacksmith to tell the terrifying tale of St. Dunstan - the patron saint of blacksmiths - and the Devil, and why we hang a horseshoe over our door. Stroll the splendid village green and admire the stately surroundings, the church and bandstand. Enjoy a wagon ride around that classic New England common. Greet old friends, make new ones. You'll know them by their smiles - everyone always smiles at everyone else at the asparagus festival - they just can't help it. As you approach the common, at the junction of Routes 9 & 67, where all roads will surely lead on May 18, be sure to admire the beautiful forms of "our ladies", arrayed and adorned just as they were when George Merritt Rice donated the town's lovely centerpiece in 1885. Rest awhile on the benches, donated by appreciative townspeople in memory of loved ones. Witness the colorful whirl of families enjoying a quintessential event in this very special place. Perhaps you should mark the date on your calendar right now; you won't want to miss it! There is no rain date. There is no ATM on the common; if you think you might like to purchase a trinket or two (or how can you resist the superb display of plants) bring cash or checks. There's an ATM in the center of town, a brief walk away. And of course, you can enjoy the day without spending a dime, if that's your style. There is some parking around the common, but the shuttle is constant, convenient and free. Feast your eyes on the graceful fountain, the colorful, creative, displays, the flowers, the food, the fun, and sally forth to a joyous day. Note: Information may be obtained at asparagusfestivalwb@gmail..com.