May the flower makers begin
The day after tomorrow will be March 1 and in most peoples minds spring will be here, despite what the weather says.
And with the start of spring, we need to start thinking about Memorial Day which falls on May 28 this year.
This will be the third year in a row that the Sun Advocate will be sponsoring the No Graves Unadorned project that culminates around Memorial Day. But for all of us involved the work begins about now. For those of you who don't know what I am talking about, here is a run down on one of the most unique and volunteer intensive community projects in the nation for a community our size.
Twelve years ago while covering Memorial Day services at a couple of the cemeteries in our county, I noticed that there were a lot of graves that weren't decorated. Over the ensuing decade I watched as people put loads of flowers on some graves, while others never saw one flower placed by the headstones.
This made me think about all the people who had built this community in the nearly 140 years it has been around. It was then that I came up with the idea that the newspaper should start a project which would make sure every grave in the county would have at least one flower placed upon it during Memorial Day week.
From my single idea, this past spring, over 1,800 volunteers from the two county area of Carbon and Emery participated to make sure we could put a flower on every grave in central eastern Utah.
Two years ago we began by officially announcing the project in an article in the paper. Then in April of that year we began asking people to make artificial flowers at home, in their club meetings, while attending church groups, Boy Scout meetings and other places. After our announcement some work places in the county even began having lunch break flower sessions.
The entire thing was amazing. I really thought in the first year we would be lucky to generate enough flowers and volunteers to place them in only the largest cemeteries and that in later years we could expand it to the smaller ones. But by the week before Memorial Day we had taken in nearly 30,000 lovingly made flowers and by two days before Memorial Day, everyone from the Kiwanis Club to the Civil Air Patrol helped to place them in grave yards that ranged from private cemeteries with two graves our largest with over 10,000 graves.
The activities and response by the community was documented in the Sun Advocate from the beginning of the project to the thank you tribute to volunteers we ran in the middle of June 2010.
Last year so many volunteers from Emery County were excited to get involved that we expanded the program to all the cemeteries there as well.
During a flower making party at USU Eastern, KSL Television came and interviewed various people about the project and the piece they put together on it ran just before Memorial Day.
Since then I have had numerous calls about other people wanting to do the same thing in their communities, some as far away at mid-west. While this was a great project for the Sun Advocate and Emery County Progress to be involved in with staff and sponsorship, the real worth in the project was what it showed about our community here in Castle Country. It showed that we honor those who helped to build our lives and our community, from the infant who passed away at two days old to the roughest of coal miners and ranchers, to those that gave their lives protecting our freedom.
As I spent some time in cemeteries in Helper and Price last Memorial Day people from out of town were expressing their surprise at the number of flowers everywhere. I have to admit that I have an emotional response when I hear that, not because I came up with the idea, but because of the way our area has taken to the project. The emotions are hard to put into words.
Plainly spoken, it may have been my idea, but ultimately, it became the community's passion.
So now we begin. We invite volunteers who want to make flowers to contact us at the Sun Advocate and Emery Progress so we can get started and make this year very successful.
Once again the area will shine with colorful flowers, on every grave, for every person who added to our communities development.