Home News and Features Barre’s Annual ‘Petal it Forward’ Day

Barre’s Annual ‘Petal it Forward’ Day

On Petal It Forward Day in Barre, (from left) Rose Wright, Casey Winnie, and Gail Wheatley bestow flowers on strangers. Photo by Linda Radtke.
Walking downtown in Barre on a gray October morning, I noticed shoppers carrying colorful bouquets of flowers. There was a certain festive vibe that intrigued me. A local awards banquet? An October version of Valentine’s Day? A thank-you to volunteer flood workers? A special Barre holiday? 

It was indeed a special holiday: The 8th annual “Petal It Forward” was in high gear. Business owners Jo-Ann Dexter and her daughter Alexis of Forget Me Not Flowers observe this annual event, promoted by the Society of American Florists, every Oct. 18. 

“Everyone needs a reason to smile now and then,” says Jo-Ann Dexter behind the counter in her shop. She gave me two bouquets with instructions to keep one and give the other to an unsuspecting stranger. (Some people ring doorbells, leave the flowers, and run away.) I headed to a nearby motel where one man looked guarded, then surprised, then said, “No one has ever given me flowers before.” 

The Dexters’ shop is the only florist in Vermont participating in this national tradition. They hold the largest event of all New England florists. “Last year we handed out 4,000 bouquets, and this year we only could do 1,500. After the flood, it was not the time to ask for donations, so we just did what we could. Everyone needed a pick-me-up, especially this year, so we didn’t want to let it go.” Jo-Ann Dexter explains. 

During the season when garden flowers wane, this spot of beauty created a moment of calm during a busy morning. It served as a welcome pick-me-up from Forget Me Not and provided a chance to slow down and notice the people around me on Barre’s Main Street as I ran errands on that gray October day. We all became, for a short time, ambassadors of joy to each other.