Crews are currently at work putting up flower baskets in the City of Steinbach.
Steinbach has won the Urban Beautification Award many times over the past 30 years. The award is for cities with a population above 7,500 and is put on by the Manitoba Good Roads Association.
The flower baskets lining the Highway 12 and Main Street have a large part to do with the beauty of the city, and Steinbach City Councillor Jac Siemens shares the history of how they came to be.
He says it all started with the beautification committee, which previous mayor of Steinbach Helmut Pankratz formed. Previous mayor Ernie Friesen, previous councillors Wes Reimer and Gary Reimer, and Jim Neustaedter, owner of Steinbach Dodge, were all on the committee.
Siemens was head of Steinbach’s Parks and Recreation Department in the 1980s, and wanted to hang flower baskets, but council was hard to convince as it was seen as unnecessary spending in a time where interest rates were high.
He explains there were three very important people in the community who made sure Steinbach got flower baskets.
The first important person was Lottie Friesen from Oakridge Nursery.
Siemens says Friesen loved the plan for the flower baskets and wanted to support it, so she provided both the city and the beautification committee a letter.
“It said ‘if this project fails, I'll pay for all the plants. I'll do all the planting. I'll put the pots together. We'll take care of it in the nursery here, and I'll take care of the pots till you hang them out and I'll teach your staff.’”
The second important person was Jim Neustadter, who was starting up Steinbach Dodge at the time.
“He provided a letter that said ‘if this project fails, I will pay for all the flower baskets.’”
The poles don't belong to the city of Steinbach, they belong to Manitoba Hydro, so after receiving the two letters of support, Siemens went to Manitoba Hydro.
This brings us to the last important person, Jerry Aubrey.
“He provided the city with a letter that said ‘Manitoba Hydro will supply and install all the pot holders.’”
Siemens says from there, the Parks Department received approval from Steinbach City Council to put the flower baskets up, but with one more condition.
“We were not allowed to add labour, we had to take labour from our current pool of seasonal employees.”
Coming back to the present, Siemens says around 316 hanging baskets will go up today.
“That's about probably one half of what they do as far as beautification projects currently.”
He says the flowers always look spectacular.
“I can't remember a year when the project even came close to not looking good.”
Siemens says the flower baskets make a real difference in our community, and council has gotten a lot of positive feedback about their beauty over the years.
“We have got a lot of awards and a lot of comments. Each year the city gets a lot of calls, ‘how do you keep your baskets like that? Because we can't get ours looking like that.’”
With files from Corny Rempel