2019 Flower Basket Program seeking donations; Looking to raise $15,000

Published 9:06 am Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The 2019 Flower Basket Program is in full swing, and organizers are seeking donations to help make it happen.

In a media conference on Tuesday morning at Piggy Blues BBQ, head organizer Bonnie Rietz announced that they are hoping to raise $15,000.

The money raised will go towards baskets, pots and plots that will be placed throughout the city.

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“This project brings together three areas of funding, and that’s the reason we can do it,” she said.

The City of Austin is one source of funding, providing $17,5000.

“I know one of the first things I hear from people who are outside of Austin that have been here is the flower baskets,” said Mayor Tom Stiehm. “You see flowers in a lot of different towns, but I think Rushford is the only town I’ve seen that has anything that compares to what we have here.”

Hormel Foods is also donating $10,000 to help fund the program.

Baskets and pots of flowers will be placed throughout town as part of the 2019 Flower Basket Program.

“We have been so lucky to be a part of this situation and a part of this donation to the community,” said Savile Lord, Spam Museum manager who does community relations for Hormel Foods.  “Just being part of the Spam Museum itself, we have visitors that come from all across the world and each an every one of them remarks about how beautiful our downtown looks and the color and personality it adds to our streetscape. To have that be a visual reminder of the beauty that surrounds us on a daily basis is wonderful and Hormel Foods is honored to be a continual part of this program.”

Supporters of the program share Lord’s sentiment about the programs effects.

“The Flower Program beautifies the town,” said Piggy Blues BBQ co-owner Josh Diaz. “It gives a positive feel; when you’re coming through town, you feel welcome if you’re not from around here. It gives a real vibrant feel to the town and it brightens your mood.”

“We hear lots and lots of good things,” said Austin Parks and Recreation Director Kim Underwood. Parks and Recreation staff is responsible for maintaining the flowers.

This year, organizers are hoping to place 248 baskets throughout the community, up from 164 when the program started in 1995. Hilltop Greenhouse and Farm of Ellendale is in the last year of a three-year contract to provide the flowers and has been providing flowers since 2011.

“It’s such a wonderful process from the time we pick up the baskets in winter to when we plant them and deliver them and the wonderful care that’s taken of them all of the season,” said Gretchen Boldt of Hilltop Greenhouse and Farm. “It’s an honor for us to be working locally.”

With the holiday season upon us, Rietz hopes people will be eager to donate.

“It’s a great time to give a Christmas gift by giving a donation to the flower fund in honor of somebody,” she said.

To donate, checks made out to “Flowers 2019” can be mailed to City Hall at 500 Fourth Ave, NE.

“If for some reason we were to stop this program, I think Austin would be a lesser city and it would be noticed,” Stiehm said.