AP NEWS

Petunia Parade to return Saturday

May 17, 2019

The streets of Ludington will get an added dash of color on Saturday morning, as thousands of red, white and blue petunias will be placed in the ground for the annual Petunia Parade.

The planting of the petunias is a sure sign of spring for locals and visitors to the area, and Saturday will mark the start of the parade’s 32nd year.

Organizers and volunteers from the Petunia Parade Committee have been working toward planting day for months, and Kathy Radtke, who co-chairs the committee along with Cathy Webster, said the preparation has been going smoothly, with the help of local businesses and community members.

Planting day is a well-oiled machine, according to Radtke, with 37 block captains supervising planting templates along Ludington Avenue, the Ludington Municipal Marina and other downtown boulevards.

The petunias, which are grown by Gustafson’s Greenhouse and purchased by the committee, will be delivered at about 9 a.m. Saturday morning. Once they’re unloaded from trucks, scores of crew members will be working throughout the morning to get the flowers in the soil.

“They will be delivered by Gustafson’s, the growers who have supported the Petunia Parade since the very beginning,” Radtke said. “Gustafson’s Greenhouse is really the crux of the whole thing, and they’re such good people … Joe Gustafson is absolutely the world’s greatest authority on petunias.”

This year, the area outside the courthouse — previously reserved for the Ludington Area School District Teachers — will be planted and tended to by the entire school district, Radtke said.

“Now, it’s officially the entire school system that has this block,” Radtke said. “It’s the superintendent, the administration, the teachers, the support staff — it’s everyone, as far as I know.”

This change is significant, Radtke said, as it’s in part a celebration of the recent passing of the bond proposal for the Ludington Area School District.

“We’re really excited — especially after the bond proposal passed — because we really wanted to show that we are giving back to the community, and we very much appreciate the passage of this bond proposal,” she said. “It will be a real group effort on part of everyone at Ludington schools.”

Participation is up this year, according to Radtke, as more and more community members — and even some visitors — have shown interest in the parade.

“We have quite a few new block captains this year, and more crews,” she said.

The Petunia Parade is not just a one-day endeavor, however. The planting is only the start of a summer season of watering and weeding to keep all the blocks in good shape.

Radtke said the committee could always use more volunteers to make sure petunias are tended to throughout the summer.

“We’re always looking for more crew members because people go on vacation, and to maintain those blocks throughout the summer, it’s really a community effort,” she said.

Planting at the marina will be a Girl Scout troop from Zeeland as well as a local group of Cub Scouts.

Involving children is an important part of the mission, Radtke said, noting that the committee hopes to see some younger members join up and volunteer to make sure that the Petunia Parade continues for generations to come. The Petunia Parade started in 1988 with just a group of friends on the back end of a trailer, according to Radtke, and it’s only grown from there.

Radtke noted that Ludington drivers are asked to operate with caution — not just during the planting day on Saturday, but throughout the summer, as volunteers work to weed and maintain the petunias.

“Weeding is where the safety really comes in, because we’re just out there with our safety vests and orange cones,” she said.

Following the planting, lunch will once again be provided for the planters in Rotary Park.

“We’re very grateful to the Ludington Optimists because they’ve held lunch for us every year,” Radtke said.

The committee welcomes new volunteers, Radtke said.

“We’re good to go here, but we’re looking for one or two more block captains and some crew members,” she said.

Those who are interested in volunteering can contact either Radtke at (231) 843-9225 or Webster at (231) 794-9023.

Radtke noted that donations for the parade are also accepted.

“It costs us approximately $10,000 to $12,000 per season for the Petunia Parade,” she said. “We acknowledge donations on our website and try to make sure that we really show gratitude to the people and companies that give us grants.”

Donations can be made in the form of checks payable to Petunia Parade, P.O. Box 5, Ludington.