The Flower Basket Project People
Sequim’s flower basket program, a partnership between Sequim High School and City of Sequim, results in 135 hanging flower baskets and 10 ground baskets adorning Washington Street each year from early June through mid-October.
Volunteer extraordinaire Emily Westcott coordinates the program, which she started 25 years ago with Derrell Sharp, agriculture teacher at Sequim High School at that time. The Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce handles the bookkeeping, and the City of Sequim puts the flower baskets up and keeps them watered.
Westcott undertakes the task of approaching local businesses each year to secure sponsors. Sponsorship is $100 per basket. People can sponsor a basket on behalf of a business and/or split the cost with a friend. It usually takes around 170 sponsors, with some of them sharing.
“This program has always been well received. It even did well in 2020 when COVID affected so many businesses,” said Westcott. “Normally we raise around $11,000. We were able to raise $15,000 this year---a record!”
“We give the high school roughly $7,000 as seed money to start the baskets. Some of the money is also used for flowers and Christmas decorations in downtown Sequim.”
Students use the seed money to start the plants in January, then they put the baskets together in March. “When schools were closed because of COVID, the teachers had to come over and help finish the baskets,” said Westcott. “Everyone worked together to get it done.”
Bill McFarlen, Sequim High School agriculture science teacher and Future Farmers of America (FFA) Faculty Advisor for the past four years, explained that students also build the wooden baskets. The baskets have to be replaced after about 5 years, and the group usually constructs around 10 baskets a year to keep an adequate supply.
“Students have the baskets planted and ready for the city to pick up by late March, just before spring break,” explained McFarlen. “We are excited that by March 2022, we expect the baskets will be stored in the newly constructed greenhouse on the northeast end of the school’s campus. People are able to watch the progress of the construction project, as it is visible from Sequim Avenue.”
“The flower basket program is a great partnership and has grown over the years from 25 to 140 baskets,” continued McFarlen. “I think that reflects well on our town and one of the reasons I feel that Sequim is so great.”
Westcott has another connection to Sequim High School, as she is a frequent substitute teacher. When she is subbing on campus, she will often swing by the greenhouse to work with the ag kids when they are working on the baskets. “I encourage them to put two colors in each basket because one color is boring,” she said.
“I was raised in the big city, in Tacoma, and graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School with a class of 560 seniors,” said Westcott. “What makes Sequim unique? I like that it is small. People are friendly.”
“There’s a real passion about being a part of Sequim,” concluded Westcott. The weather is great. I was raised in the rain---it is nicer here.”
Several businesses have never missed a year as sponsors over the past 25 years. This fall, the Chamber issued certificates and Westcott personally presented them to each sponsor to acknowledge their continued support. 25-year sponsors were Alan Millet, Attorney & Counselor at Law, Blake Tile and Stone, Blue Whole Gallery, Cole’s Jewelers, The Co-op Farm and Garden, Fifth Avenue Senior Independent Living, First Federal, Hi-Way 101 Diner, Heidi Kanning DDS MS, Kirby’s Barber Shop, Kitsap Bank, The Lodge at Sherwood Village, Mad Maggi Boutique & Salon, McDonald’s, MM Fryer & Sons Insurance, Oak Table Café, Olympic Ambulance, Olympic Game Farm, Olympic Medical Center, Over the Fence Home & Garden Store, Rotary Club of Sequim Noon, Sequim Beauty Salon, Sequim Vision Clinic, Sofie’s Florist, Sound Community Bank, Sound Publishing/Sequim Gazette/Peninsula Daily News, Subway Sequim, Team McAleer @ RE/MAX Prime, Thomas Building Center, Wilder Toyota, and Zbaraschuk Dental Care.