Why Petunias? Each year, the residents of Dixon, Illinois, honor a group of public, spirited men and their project which has earned the town national recognition and as the State of Illinois official “Petunia City.” Thousands of pink petunias line more than two miles of Dixon highway approaches and main thoroughfares, giving the city a warm glow of color from early May until late fall.
It all began in the late 1950s when a combination of Dutch Elm disease and major highway expansion caused the removal of all trees along the community’s major roadways. The Dixon Men’s Garden Club, which for several years had worked on small flower beds scattered throughout the city, decided to do something about the barren look of the highway approaches. In 1960 and 1961 the club planted 4,000 petunias along both sides of about one-half mile of the principal north-south route, South Galena Avenue. The next year the club members put 6,000 more petunias on the three-quarters of a mile of North Galena Avenue.
Today, the plantings have spread out to other approaches to the city and now extend along principal streets. Most of Dixon’s 15,000 residents have taken part in one way or another.
There is a now a group of dedicated individuals who plant petunias for the residents of Dixon to enjoy. The Dixon in Bloom Committee was formed in April 2011, when the first hanging baskets of petunias were placed on the Galena and Peoria Avenue bridges. The area has now increased to include Galena Avenue, Peoria Avenue, First Street and a portion of Second Street. In 2016 the group increased the number of baskets to 265. The cost of planting the baskets runs approximately $17,000 annually.
The monies for these baskets come from individual donations. The Dixon Area Garden Club and The Rock River Garden Club have been major financial contributors to the Dixon in Bloom program. Donations are always appreciated and may be sent to: Dixon in Bloom, P.O. Box 127, Dixon, IL 61021