NEGAUNEE - More than 100 fourth-grade students from Lakeview Elementary School in Negaunee had a lesson in community pride and betterment at the city's Miners Park Thursday by planting flowers as part of the Negaunee Beautification Committee's annual Marigold Mania.
A corollary to Marquette's Petunia Pandemonium, Negaunee's flower planting effort was started three or four years ago by Anna Mattson, founder of the beautification committee, as a way to get kids involved with making their city a more vibrant place to live.
"We're not as big as Marquette, but we do little things to try to make a difference," Mattson said. "I worked with students ... at Lakeview school for many years, so I kinda thought, 'You know, we can do (something like Petunia Pandemonium),' but a smaller version. And it gives the kids something - I mean a lot of those kids spend a lot of time here every summer. So they can show their grandma or their mom or their dad, we planted those flowers. So to me it made sense to use the kids."
Raija Grengs, a fourth-grader from Lakeview Elementary School in Negaunee, plants a marigold in Negaunee's Miners Park Thursday, as part of the Negaunee Beautification Committee’s annual Marigold Mania. (Journal photo by Zach Jay)
Committee founder Anna Mattson gives instructions to students as they prepare to plant the flowers. Some 110 fourth- graders planted 125 marigolds in the park that day. (Journal photo by Zach Jay)
Paul Collins, a fourth-grade teacher at Lakeview, said Mattson contacted the school and asked if the students would like to beautify the park.
"They've been doing this for quite some time now, planting marigolds in the spring," Collins said. "The kids come over and make it pretty. And they get to watch them bloom and grow as the spring goes on. There's always something for them to come back and look at and say, 'I did that.' "
On Thursday, 110 fourth-graders planted 125 marigolds in the park. Usually the students grow the marigolds themselves using the school's greenhouse, but because of this year's unusually cold winter and spring the flowers were donated by Snyders Drug Stores in Negaunee. Mattson said the store is always a big supporter of NBC.
"Usually they start their own plants in the greenhouse at Lakeview, but we had such a crazy spring this year they didn't get it done," she said. "So we just improvised. Mother Nature didn't help."
Students said they enjoy making the park look better for the summer.
"It was extremely fun, knowing that it was a good thing for our community," fourth-grader Kaelyn Amis said. "I liked how beautiful the flowers were, that it was a sunny day and that everyone was with us."
Classmate Ayden Johnson agreed.
"It was fun because it was helping the community," he said, adding that his favorite part was planting the flowers. "I garden at my camp a lot, too."
In addition to their roles as green thumbs, the students also heard members of the Negaunee Historical Society talk about the origins of the park's pyramid monument, made out of mine rock, dedicated to four children who died in accidents in or near the sites of the city's old mines. The historical society talked about the importance of obeying "No Trespassing" signs and not going places they're not supposed to.
"It's a safety thing that we incorporate into the same day," Mattson explained.
Marigold Mania is one of many of the beautification committee's endeavors. Mattson said last year, the group refurbished, repainted and strategically placed old ore cars around Negaunee. The cars, which the department of public works places in the spring, create a sort of map leading downtown and to the nearby Iron Ore Heritage Trail.
This year, Mattson said the committee received a $2,300 grant from the Marquette County Community Foundation to be used as seed money for NBC's new Adopt a Bench program.
The committee will sell $300 sponsorships to the benches and hopes to place at least one bench, bearing a plaque with the sponsor's name, in each of the city's 17 parks.
"We'd like to do eight or 10 a year," Mattson said. "We hope to have it in place for Pioneer Days. But I know Midtown Bakery wants one and Cattron's (Lumber and Building Supplies) wants one, so we have potential buyers lined up."
For more information about the city's beautification committee, visit www.cityofnegaunee.com/PRBeauty.html.
Zach Jay can be reached at 906-486-4401.