This spring, let’s make the downtown flowers ‘our’ flowers

Downtown beautifiers Tom Stokely and Dave Wright have erected signs on the Willis Avenue boulevard reading, "We need donations for flowers. Send to Perry Chamber of Commerce."

What’s with the primitive signs in the ends of the boulevard asking for donations for flowers?

The signs represent a grassroots efforts to raise funds for placing flowers in the boulevard and planters in the downtown and in the firemen’s monument. Unknown to most, the flowers were only financed by the city during the first year and afterward by private donations and grants and planted by volunteers.

In 2015 the group spent more than $2,500 for flowers and preparation. The effort was paid for by private donations, with matching funds through the Perry-Area Chamber of Commerce and revenues from the hotel and motel taxes. In addition, a number of citizens and businesses contributed by adopting planters.

In the last few years, Tom Stokely and David Wright have worked on the flowers in the boulevard . They noticed that fewer planters were being adopted each year, and the firemen’s monument was being neglected. So this year they decided to coordinate all the planting in the downtown area.

An active effort has been made to contact all businesses in the downtown for donations and help. To help put the present efforts in context, it is helpful to review recent beautification efforts in the downtown area.

Over the years, a number of things have been done in the Perry downtown area to make it more pleasing to see. In the 1990s, when the Hotel Pattee was undergoing renovation, the city of Perry completed a project to change Willis Avenue from a four-lane street to a two-lane street with boulevards in the blocks from First Avenue to Third Street.

That beautification project included period lighting, shrubbery, flower beds on the ends of the boulevard and walkway crossing the boulevard, with rose bushes and flowers on either side. The flowers were initially planted by the city as part of the project but in the following years, the beds have taken care of by volunteers at their expense.

In the 1980s, a volunteer organization called Beautification of Perry (BOP) was formed in the community to address the appearance of the downtown and other areas. This group raised money from businesses and citizens to purchase garbage containers and planters for the downtown district. Businesses were asked to adopt a planter, plant it and tend it. As time passed and downtown retailing declined, fewer businesses meant fewer adopted planters.

The Firemen’s Monument sits the corner of First Avenue and Warford Street. The monument was built on the site of the old fire station. Money was raised from several groups in the community, and a fountain was built with the bell from the old fire station displayed on top.

When the fountain pump quit working and the monument fell into disrepair, the fountain was filled in and flowers were planted in the monument and cared for by the local garden club. In the last several years, no flowers have been planted and weeds have essentially taken over.

The way a community presents itself not only to its visitors but to its own citizens has a profound effect on the economic activities in the community. Visitors come away with a good feeling about the the community and tell others of the positive experience they have, and they return to spend dollars in the community.

The citizens as well find that the shopping experience is more pleasant and buy more. Even though ordinary citizens may not have been part of a project, they take pride in adopting a project as their own, much as the Hotel Pattee is “their” hotel, or the new school is “their” school, or the boulevard is “their” boulevard.

This year, Perry residents are encouraged to make the downtown flowers “their” flowers. The sign-up form can be sent to the Perry-Area Chamber of Commerce, 1102 Willis Ave., Perry, IA 50220.



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