June 17, 2015 Edition

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WR woman's hobby making
a difference in downtown WR

Mary Jane Callahan (right) helps Sherri Thomas as she waters flowers in front of Sherri's Styles and The Sassy B on Main Street in downtown Walnut Ridge. Callahan's love for flowers and creative containers is quickly spreading through the town.
TD Photo ~ Gretchen Hunt

Mary Jane Callahan of Walnut Ridge loves plants and loves her community - those two loves have combined into a movement to make the downtown Walnut Ridge area more inviting to summer travelers.

"I have two hobbies, container gardening and repurposing disused items for other purposes," Callahan said.

She said she gets a lot of ideas for her projects from social media groups like "Container Gardening Gone to Pot" and "Flea Market Crafting for Garden and Home."

"There are always pictures!" she said. "One day I shared one of the pictures and said wouldn't this be neat for Walnut Ridge. It was a small community that had hanging pots all the way down the street."

She said the next thing she knew, Sherri Thomas had hung a couple of flower pots in front of her business and the nail salon next door.

"I told her I hope you know I have flowers because of you," Thomas said.

Soon more businesses would have flowers because of Callahan.

"I was driving down Main Street and I noticed how nice it looked from Imagine all the way down to Sherri's, and I thought how inviting," Callahan said. "I thought to myself that is something that we as a community could do."

However, Callahan said she knew that for many businesses paying the bills would take precedent over putting out flowers.

"I posted on my personal Facebook page that I would put together four baskets of flowers and the first four businesses that contacted me and made a commitment to water them and keep them living to the best of their ability," she said.

She said several businesses have taken her up on that offer, and others have placed flowers on their own.

"More and more contacts started coming in and quickly surpassed my four flowers," she said.

Thomas has taken a leadership role, not only putting out her own flowers, but helping care for flowers hanging at nearby businesses.

"Sherri went the step beyond," Callahan said. "She put a bistro table and chairs out. When Sandy (Bonner) went in with Sherri they continued to grow their little area."

Callahan said this project is not in conjunction with any specific group, it simply started as a dream because she loves flowers and repurposing.

"Because of health reasons I can't participate in the festival and other things like I have in the past and I want to do something," she said.

Others are also stepping up to help with the effort, as well.

Peggy Coker Maryman donated hanging baskets, which Callahan filled with silk flowers to hang from the poles along Main.

"I was afraid live plants would just die up there," she said. "So I came up with the silk flower idea."

She said most response has been positive. Some have said the plants will die or the silk flowers will fade, but she said that they will fulfill a purpose first.

"If it lives a year, it's done my purpose, which is to get summer travelers to take notice and stop," she said. "I've talked to people from San Francisco, Missouri, Georgia, Eureka Springs and Arizona that stopped because they wanted to see what was going on."

She said several expressed interest in coming back for the Beatles at the Ridge Festival in the future.

Callahan said her goal is to have live plants where possible and use silk plants where they are harder to maintain.

"I am always looking for creative containers - I use a lot of flea market finds," she said. "I would like to add a musical element if anyone has old drums, or a guitar or saxophone."

She said she has also received some flower donations for the project and welcomes anyone who would like to become involved to do so.

"So far I have not had to tell anybody no," she said.

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