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Flower program is rooted in community

For 17 years, there have been flower baskets, flower pots and flower beds throughout the city of Austin, and 2011 will likely continue the tradition.

How that tradition is funded, however, has changed.

Gone, are the days of city-financed baskets. In 2003, then-Mayor Bonnie Rietz and the Austin City Council, facing serious budget reductions, put the flowers on the chopping block.

"We said, 'If the community will go 50-50 on it, we'll do it,'" Rietz said. They also pared back the number of baskets. There were 411 in 2001, she said.

When the 2011 flower basket program was announced Wednesday, the city's contribution had dropped to 25 percent of the total cost.


Come May, 164 baskets will go up around town; Main Street's flower pots will be full, and the city's flower beds will be tended. The number of flowers is unchanged from 2010.

The total cost for the season is about $40,000; $25,000 has already been collected — from just three donors. The city will contribute $10,000, Hormel Foods Corp. is chipping in another $10,000, and Austin residents Pat and Gary Ray donated $5,000.

That leaves $15,000 to be raised, a goal Rietz said is achievable.

"We're really lucky," she said. "The community has been very supportive of it."

This year's bid to grow and provide the flowers went to Hilltop Greenhouse, of Hollandale, and the Hardy Geranium, respectively.

"We're very excited to be working for the city of Austin as the grower," said Gretchen Boldt, of Hilltop. "We've been in the area for a long time."

The flowers will be "an assortment," she said. "We plan to make it as beautiful and colorful as possible."

The flower committee — led by Mayor Tom Stiehm, Rietz and Steve Davis, owner of Steve's Pizza — hopes to be fully funded by Jan. 15.


"This is one of our favorite days of the year," said Julie Craven, vice president of corporate communications for Hormel Foods. "No matter how cold the announcement day is, it always means a beautiful summer."

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