ROCHELLE – As the weather turns warm things are starting to bloom and residents and visitors to downtown Rochelle will soon begin to see whiskey barrels full of flowers designed by different sponsors.
The annual Whiskey Barrel Sponsorship event is taking place now through the end of the growing season. All of the barrels were donated by the Rochelle Garden Club, which receives them from Goose Island Brewing in Chicago. The event started out as a small idea three years ago and has continued to grow from there.
“We started out with 19 barrels the first year in 2017,” said Naomi Baldwin, owner of Colonial Flower Shoppe. “And then last year we ended up with about 32, and now everybody wants one and we don’t have enough.”
Each arrangement is planted and maintained all growing season by the sponsor of that barrel. The sponsors may use their own flowers, but if any extras are needed they are placed behind the Masonic Lodge and are available to anyone. All of the sponsors are local businesses and the Rochelle High School Future Farmer’s of America organization.
“The first year me and my girls here tried to run it and take care of everything,” said Baldwin. “But you just can’t do it and try to run a business and everything, so that’s why we have a sponsorship.”
The deadline for the sponsors to get their barrels decorated and planted is May 25, and they are responsible for maintaining them through the growing season until the judging takes place on July 2.
“We waited until August during the festival to judge them,” said Baldwin. “This year we have to do them earlier, because that August sun just kills the plants.”
Prizes will be awarded for categories including the following: best blooms, most unique designs, most patriotic, best plant combination and the people choice. Winners of each category will receive a blue ribbon as a prize.
Baldwin said the Whiskey Barrel Sponsorship event is great for getting the people and businesses of the community to get involved, but the barrels full of flowers also help brighten people’s day.
“Flowers make people happy, and make them smile,” said Baldwin. “Not only that it gives it color and more of that downtown home feel.”
Once the judging has come to an end, it is the sponsors responsibility to clean out the barrels. They then have the option to put fall decorations in them, and then evergreens closer to Christmas time.
“If anybody does the evergreen, I always finish them with a red ribbon,” said Baldwin”
The Annual Whiskey Barrel Sponsorship event will once again take place next summer, but there is still time to go out and vote for the best ones of this year.