The Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce plans a very nice surprise on May 19.

That is when residents will wake up to find flower baskets hanging at 275 locations all over the city.

'People are going to walk around the corner and they'll be instantly surprised by all this shocking beauty,' said Mike Buck, chairman of the chamber's Village Flower Basket Program.

'They'll see these overflowing, blooming baskets. They'll be cascading over the street corners and corridors of Lake Oswego.'

'The purpose is to beautify the city,' said Jerry Wheeler, executive director of the LO Chamber of Commerce. 'It's also a way of building community. It's a pretty big deal.'

Buck says the flower basket program is one of the few occasions when business operators and owners come together for a project.

'It's all volunteer based,' Buck said. 'It's chamber members and its citizens. All kinds of people show up to help. It reflects their love of being part of Lake Oswego.'

Buck hopes to have 50 to 60 volunteers lined up for action on May 19, which is the same day the Lake Oswego Farmers Market opens, and the process goes like this: One team drops the basket, another team hangs the baskets. They get up at the 'ungodly' hour of 5 a.m., and their reward is a catered breakfast afterward at the chamber of commerce office.

This setup has worked well ever since the program began in 1989.

Each year the program gets a bit of tweaking. Last year the flower baskets were hung at the new Foothills Park for the first time, and this year there are plans to expand the program to Marylhurst University and Mary's Woods.

The flower baskets themselves, which are prepared by Garden Corner of Tualatin, will be somewhat different. They will contain a substance called zeba, which consists of water-absorbent polymer.

'If it works, it will decrease the need for daily watering and cut the maintenance costs,' said Buck.

Those costs are high. The price is $275 to maintain each flower basket for four and a half months, and the program costs about $10,000 a month. So public support is greatly appreciated and needed, and some incentives are offered.

'People can donate in honor of a loved one on Mother's Day or Father's Day,' Buck said. 'They will be sent a card of appreciation by the chamber, and they can even specify where they want the basket.'

The rewards of the flower basket program are great.

'It's a singular event. It instills civic pride,' said Buck, long-time operator of Gubanc's Restaurant in Lake Oswego and director of the flower basket program for the past three years.

'We get lots of positive feedback, especially from visitors and people seeking to buy homes. We associate flowers with so many great events.

'This is something that makes me proud and happy to be a citizen of Lake Oswego. That goes for the 12 members of the committee.'

It also goes for anyone who walks around a corner in Lake Oswego after May 19.

Persons desiring to volunteer or make a contribution for the Village Flower Basket Program can call the Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce at 503-636-3634.

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