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Help beautify Polson with flower baskets

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In the shelter of a humid and warm greenhouse, flowers are growing on faith that they’ll be adopted by donors and continue to add to the iconic beauty of Polson’s downtown.

The bevy of floral baskets — 77, to be exact — will line Main Street and adjoining side streets throughout the summer, but first the Polson Chamber of Commerce is asking for businesses and individuals to contribute $175 per basket to keep the tradition alive and flourishing. The donations are tax deductible because the Chamber is under the umbrella of the non-profit Greater Polson Community Foundation.

Some businesses like to sponsor the basket outside their shop, or others sponsor in the name of a loved one, according to Trudy Pedersen, Chamber boardmember involved with the Beautification Committee — the group in charge of the blooming baskets, the bridge banners and the Christmas decorations each year.

“They are just beautiful, and such an addition to the town,” Pedersen said.

While the baskets are currently a Chamber project, the original dozen baskets were the brainchild of Zina Swanson and Beverly Carlson in the 1990s. They enlisted the help of Chip Kurzenbaum at Gull Printing to get approval from the city and the power company to place hangers on light standards.

“I was their contact person, … their muscle for a few years,” Kurzenbaum said, “It was very near and dear to them, and they did an unbelievably good job at the time.”

There were challenges. The flowers had to endure heat coming from the asphalt 10 feet below. It took experimentation to find the right variety of flowers that would continually bloom from May to September. Kurzenbaum credits Twila Delaney of Delaney’s Landscape Center for finding the right combination.

“There’s been a lot of new development in plant material,” Delaney explained, citing newer varieties such as Million Bells and trailing petunias. “We’ve gotten a lot more experience, too.”

Although growing the baskets was once shared between greenhouses, now Delaney’s grows them exclusively. Soil and seeds were placed in the hanging baskets this February and blooms are already emerging in anticipation of being hung on the streets just prior to Memorial Day.

Parts of the beautification project have evolved through the years, yet one thing has remained the same — the baskets have always been sponsored by the community through donations, explained Chamber member Rich Forbis. 

“The baskets are important because they have become an institution and are something that community members and visitors look forward to each year.” Forbis said. “We receive many positive responses to the baskets; in fact, the executive director of the Missoula Downtown Association commented a few years ago that they are envious of how beautiful the baskets are.”

Caring for the baskets throughout the summer requires time and lots of water. The Chamber pays a City of Polson employee to water the flowers once a day, and sometimes twice a day in extreme heat, for which they pay $3,000 to $5,000 each year.

When it’s time to take the colorful flowers down after Labor Day, Mission Valley Power and Gary Dupuis step up to remove them.

But to make all this happen, the Chamber is currently recruiting sponsors to pay for the colorful additions.

Those who would like to make a tax-deductible donation to the basket project can make a check payable to the Greater Polson Community Foundation in the amount of $175 and mail it to the Chamber office at 418 Main Street, Polson, MT 59860. 

A donation form will also be available in the upcoming Mission Valley Power bill.

“A sponsorship would give a donor a sense of Polson pride,” Forbis said. “The baskets signify a unique community statement.”

Sponsored by: