Coming up golden
After 50 years, most things are well-established. But, a 50-year-old city is just in its infancy, waiting for its residents to mold and shape it into its distinctive form. This year, for Lindenhurst, Ill.’s golden anniversary, town officials saw an opportunity to celebrate its history while creating a lasting identity. To do that, officials distributed golden daffodil bulbs to residents and businesses to blanket the town with gold during springtime.
With just over 14,000 residents, Lindenhurst, located in northern Illinois, is a suburban community surrounded by lakes and forest preserves. Established in the 1950s, Lindenhurst was young, and town officials wanted to create a unique identity. “We don’t have a downtown district. We don’t have any old, historic buildings [and we] don’t have any monuments,” says Lindenhurst Mayor Jim Betustak. “We don’t have anything that would be called the heart and soul of this town. So, I thought this golden anniversary was a time to call attention to ourselves and do something about that.”
Early last year, Betustak and other town officials discussed how the young city would celebrate its golden year. Hearing of other cities that use flowers, bushes and other vegetation to identify themselves, Betustak developed the idea to create the town’s identity using the golden daffodil. In celebration of Earth Day in April 2005, the town took 5,500 orders from residents for daffodil bulbs. But for Betustak, that was not enough. He wanted 50,000 bulbs, which he discovered would cost $10,000.
Meanwhile, new neighborhood and retail developments were being planned throughout the town. Betustak found Lake Forest, Ill.-based developers Westminster Swanson Land Partners and The O’Leary Cos., who proposed a retail and residential facility for the town, and told the company his idea. Within 24 hours, the company agreed to donate the money to purchase the bulbs.
About 100 volunteers, including families and children, worked with the town to prepare the daffodil bulbs for distribution throughout the community. Five bulbs each were placed in brown paper bags with an attached note encouraging residents to participate in the project along with planting instructions. Once completed, Betustak, city workers and volunteers took to the streets of Lindenhurst to deliver the bulbs to residents, placing them on every doorstep. Schools, parks, churches and other public buildings also received bulbs to plant before the 2006 anniversary year. The town’s public works department even planted the daffodils in roadway medians.
This spring, the collective project emerged from the earth, enveloping the town in golden blooms. “It’s eye catching when you look at groupings of daffodils,” Betustak says. “So, as you drive through town, you are seeing mass plantings of these daffodil bulbs throughout the community.”
On Sept. 26, 2005, the golden daffodil was designated as the town’s official flower. In addition, with the support of Illinois State Rep. Robert Churchill, the “daffodil capital of Illinois” title was bestowed upon the town.
Throughout the rest of the year, town officials are planning events to celebrate the 50th anniversary, such as a youth parade, and a family picnic and outdoor movie. In November, a veteran’s memorial — the town’s first monument — will be placed at the entrance to the town hall. “The idea was to come up with ways to celebrate the year, make it a memorable year for us but also think in terms of the kinds of things that we can make permanent,” Betustak says. “We don’t have the typical things that a lot of older communities have. In some ways that’s good because you can then create what you want.”