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Riverhead community teams up to rescue local tradition

River and Roots Community Garden co-founder Amy Davidson,

River and Roots Community Garden co-founder Amy Davidson, 46, of Riverhead, teamed up with nonprofit beautification group Riverhead Townscape to hang baskets of assorted flora along Main Street in Riverhead. (July 23, 2013) Credit: Amy Onorato

For more than 20 years, members of Riverhead Townscape, a nonprofit beautification committee in Riverhead, has hung flower baskets from lampposts along Main Street for community members to enjoy throughout the summer months.

This year, after a shipment error left the committee without flowers to create the baskets, the group called upon the community in a last-minute pitch to prolong the tradition.

The baskets are usually hung along Main Street in late May and remain hanging until Columbus Day. The absence of the baskets caught the attention of the community.

"We did get calls, people were inquiring about where the baskets were," Pat Mulcahy, president of Riverhead Townscape, said.

So Riverhead Townscape teamed up with the River and Roots Community Garden to see if they community help. The garden’s co-founder Amy Davidson was able to get together more than 20 people to help assemble the baskets, and the flowers to fill them were donated by two Long Island nurseries.

“We decided to come up with a project that would get the whole community involved,” said Jim Warner, Riverhead Townscape projects director. “I think it means more to people, doing it ourselves.”

On Thursday evening, the group assembled to help put together the baskets. The grounds of the garden turned into a human assembly line, with each participant taking on a different role in putting together the baskets; from potting and arranging the plants, to packing the soil and stringing the wire.

“I think it’s a great display of pride we take in our town,” Davidson said of the community members that joined in.

An assortment of flowers, including portulaca, petunias and begonias, were donated by Colorful Gardens, of Jamesport and Ivy Acres, of Calverton, and the arrangements were assembled in eco-friendly baskets made from recycled paper products.

“For us, we had the availability and we had the ability to donate,” Geovanny Canel, manager of Colorful Gardens, said. “We were happy to give Riverhead a bit of color.”

Community gardener Amie Kennedy, 45, of Riverhead said she thought working on the baskets felt like ‘making a painting.’

“We got to pick and choose which flowers we wanted to use in our baskets, like a palette,” she said. “Each one was not exactly alike."

In the end, 64 flower baskets were hung along the old-fashioned lamp posts that line the center of Main Street in Riverhead Monday morning. While the flowers are still beginning to bloom, Warner expects a full burst of color from the flora within the next two weeks.

“A real positive came out of what could have been a big disappointment,” Warner said.

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