You can’t miss them: From the Centennial Riverwalk to Portal Way, downtown Ferndale shines with 125 baskets of vibrant pink flowers. The vibrant blooms are beloved spring and summer staples. The Ferndale Chamber of Commerce began taking care of the flowers after the Ferndale Image Group disbanded in 2003.

Ferndale Chamber of Commerce gets a new Gator
Bob Curtis spends six hours a day watering the flowers. Photo courtesy: Ferndale Chamber of Commerce.

Eighty-six-year-old Bob Curtis waters the flowers with the help of the Ferndale Chamber of Commerce’s trusty John Deere Gator. The Chamber oversees the hanging baskets’ maintenance and provides Curtis with equipment and materials to keep them looking fresh.

The Chamber recently retired the beloved 13-year-old Gator and purchased a new used one with help from community partners. The old Gator racked up 26,000 hours of use during its lengthy career and became well-known downtown. The new Gator promises to live up to its predecessor’s reputation.

“We know the flower baskets make our town more beautiful and vibrant, and we couldn’t get a new Gator without help from our partners that also care so much about our community,” says Ann Serwold, executive director of the Ferndale Chamber of Commerce.

The acquisition of the Gator was spurred by Phillips 66 Ferndale Refinery. The project also received support from Ferndale Grocery Outlet, BP’s Cherry Point Refinery and Signs By Tomorrow Bellingham, who will eventually wrap the Gator in logos. According to Serwold, the Chamber greatly appreciates contributions from members of Ferndale’s business community.

Ferndale Chamber of Commerce gets a new Gator
There are a total of 125 flower baskets throughout Ferndale’s downtown. Photo courtesy: Ferndale Chamber of Commerce.

Antonio Machado, crude/LPG scheduler for Phillips 66 Ferndale Refinery, says they saw a need to replace the old Gator when they recognized the essential role it plays in the Ferndale community. “It was necessary to help the Chamber of Commerce get a new working Gator,” Machado says. “Most of our families live in Ferndale – many people here are longtime Whatcom County residents. This is our community and the downtown flower baskets are a part of what makes our community great.”

In addition to assisting with the new Gator’s purchase in 2018, Phillips 66 Ferndale Refinery gave Whatcom County a grant to build a Phillips 66 Soccer Park in 2016. The facility, considered one of the nicest soccer fields in Washington, features 12 full-size soccer fields. Their care for the Ferndale and Whatcom County communities is apparent.

Just like Machado, Ferndale Grocery Outlet Owner Larry Brown stresses the importance of local business bettering the community in which they do business. “I felt like we need to show the community that we care about them,” Brown says. “If our donation helps lift the spirits of Ferndale in an indirect way and we are successful doing that, then we’ve done our job as business owners in Ferndale.”

Ferndale Chamber of Commerce gets a new Gator
The Ferndale Chamber of Commerce’s new Gator was purchased with support by Phillips 66 Ferndale Refinery, BP’s Cherry Point Refinery and Ferndale Grocery Outlet. Photo courtesy: Ferndale Chamber of Commerce.

Brown says he was lucky to work for an employer who taught him that community involvement is the most important thing business owners can do. This is why he and his wife, Beth, love giving back and showing their gratitude and appreciation.

Internal Communications Advisor for BP Cherry Point Refinery Rayanne McKeon echoes Brown’s sentiment. “The BP Cherry Point refinery believes that strong partnerships like the one it has with the Ferndale Chamber of Commerce are part of doing good business,” McKeon says. “When BP learned the Chamber needed a new Gator to keep the beautiful flower baskets that hang in downtown blooming, we were happy to support this cause. Many of our employees are proud to call Ferndale home and we are proud to support this community.”

But perhaps no one is happier than Bob Curtis, the man who spends six hours every day driving the Gator to each of the 125 flower baskets. Curtis will continue his work as usual, attentively caring for each plant and providing as much water as needed – but now he’ll do it in style, in a much newer John Deere Gator.

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