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 communitys major roadways. The Dixon Mens Garden Club, which for several years has 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 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.