Any visitor to Ludington will tell you that one of the most beautiful sights during the summer months is the Petunia Parade. Each spring, hundreds of volunteers gather along Ludington Avenue, the downtown boulevards, and the city marina to plant 30,000 red, white, and purple petunias. Started by Ellery and Sue Sabin in 1988, the Petunia Parade has become an annual tradition.
By the time of the July 4th Freedom Festival, the petunias are in full bloom, and a wave of color lines the avenue, from Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital all the way to the beach of Lake Michigan. Each block is assigned a captain, who is responsible for supervising a crew to maintain the petunias in that block. From planting the petunias to watering and weeding, it literally "takes a village" to keep this tradition going.
When all preparations are in place, early on a Saturday morning during the third week of May, the petunia beds come alive with a buzz of activity, as community members gather for Planting Day - the annual "rite of spring" for Petunia Parade participants. Block captains and crews of all ages, bringing spades and trowels, join in a "planting flurry." By noon, the last petunia is in the ground. Workers make their way to City Park, where "hots and brats" are provided by a local civic group. Thus, the summer season is officially underway for residents of Ludington. Now, and for the remainder of the summer, the petunias are maintained by their "block families," who come together twice each month on "Community Weeding Day" to keep a watchful eye on encroaching weeds. As the warm summer sun shines upon them, the petunias continue to grow and flourish, adding a splash of color and creating a festive aura to the city.
With a sense of nostalgia, the crews remove the petunias in September, after residents and visitors have said good-bye to summer on Labor Day weekend.
Hopefully, community members and visitors to Ludington will never have to imagine a summer without beautiful petunias. The cost for each planting season is approximately $10,000. Ludington Petunia Parade is supported partially by the (4-5%) interest portion of the Ellery and Sue Sabin Community Foundation endowment fund, but relies on donations from businesses and private citizens to cover a great share of its cost. Contributions in any amount are always appreciated and acknowledged.