Petunia Pandemonium

Traffic lane changes expected as MBRC seeks volunteers for annual planting event on Saturday

Seventh- and eighth-grade students from North Star Academy team up with the Marquette Beautification and Restoration Committee Inc. members for the 2015 Petunia Pandemonium, when volunteers planted flower beds along South Front Street in Marquette. The MBRC is seeking volunteers for this year’s planting, to be held Saturday. (Journal file photo)

MARQUETTE — Even though the flower species now go way beyond just petunias, the 30th annual Petunia Pandemonium planting will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday on South Front Street in the city of Marquette.

The project is sponsored by the Marquette Beautification and Restoration Committee Inc., which is celebrating its 40th birthday this year.

As usual, the planting will take place on the west side of U.S. 41 South between Furnace and Hampton streets. The traffic lane closest to the flower beds will be closed for safety.

The event is an ambitious undertaking. Approximately 500 volunteers are needed each spring to plant the colorful flowers for the welcoming display.

Volunteers of all ages are needed to help plant 23,000 colorful annuals to beautify the southern gateway to Marquette for five months. Saturday’s planting will take about an hour, and will be followed by a community-style picnic on the lawn in front of McCabe Fine Flooring just south of the Beef-A-Roo restaurant.

The picnic will start at 11:30 a.m., with food to be provided by Huron Mountain Bakery, Third Street Bagel, Border Grill, Vango’s Pizza & Cocktail Lounge, the Holiday Inn and Starbucks. Beef-A-Roo will provide complimentary ice cream cones to volunteers during the planting.

Volunteers should bring a trowel, wear old clothes and shoes, and wear hats, sunscreen and gloves if desired. Safety vests will be provided to the volunteers and extra trowels will be available.

The flower beds have been prepared for planting and are easily dug. Plants will be at each flower bed and instructions will be available. Plants should be planted so the soil is at the same level with the top of the root ball. Empty plastic containers, which will be recycled, should be brought to the picnic as well. Restrooms and a hand-washing station will be available.

Petunia Pandemonium has received many awards, including a Hometown Pride Award from Midwest Living Magazine and awards from Keep Michigan Beautiful Inc.

The MBRC is an Adopt-A-Park designee and maintains the .8-mile stretch where the flowers are planted. The grass, including areas around the roundabout, are mowed weekly and maintained by the committee. The flowers are mulched, fertilized, weeded and deadheaded.

Flowers were provided for years by Meister’s, but now are provided by Nagelkirk, based in Harvey. The annual cost of the project is about $17,500, which includes two other gardens in the city that are planted and maintained by the committee.

An irrigation system keeps the plants at peak for five months. The committee has invested $100,000 in the irrigation system, including at the roundabout, and another $400,000 over 30 years, bringing the total investment to about $500,000.

An estimated 14,000 volunteers have helped plant flowers since 1989.

Petunia Pandemonium will be extended this year with additional plantings at Tami’s Garden at Father Marquette Park, which will be rededicated at 2 p.m. July 15. That event will be followed by a community-wide reception at 3 p.m. with refreshments on the boardwalk below the Hampton Inn.

Tami’s Garden is named after the late MBRC president, Tami Dawidowski.

Donations to MBRC are always welcome. Checks may be made payable to MBRC and mailed to P.O. Box 334, Marquette, MI 49855. For further information, call Barb Kelly, Petunia Pandemonium chairwoman, at 906-225-5077.

Families and organizations can sign up ahead of time or just show up at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Beginning at 6 a.m. Friday, South Front Street, from Furnace Street to the roundabout, will be tapered down to one lane heading north, to accommodate for the planting.

The lane is expected to be open to through traffic at 3 p.m., a city press release states.

Starting at 6 a.m. Saturday, the southbound lane of South Front Street, from Jackson Street to Furnace Street, will be tapered down to one lane.

All lanes are expected to be open to through traffic at 1 p.m. Saturday.

City officials encouraged motorists to slow down and use caution while traveling this area.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.