REED CITY — The threat of rain and a stinging bite of cold didn’t keep dozens of petunia planters from planting 14,000 petunias Saturday.

There was a lot of laughter in the line that met up with Mary Lou Proefrock. Some laughed because last year they said that was the last year.

Proefrock has been a key coordinator for the event in the 17 years since it started. When someone credits her with doing so much work, she immediately passes off the credit to “they are the ones who have to do it!” and pointed to people lined up to register at 10 a.m., and those already out there planting.

In addition, she said there are people who order, donate money, drop off the flats shortly before planting time, go through and indent the curb area, and help in so many other ways as well. Then there are the “waterers” who mobilize throughout the summer and come through to make sure the plants are kept watered when rain fails to fall.

Some laughed because they were giddy when they learned there was a special type of “indent” equipment that now starts the holes and shows the spacing for petunia planting all along Chestnut Street’s long stretch the length of Reed City.

It was a welcome sight for many who admitted to having trouble in the past knowing how deep to plant the flowers or just where along Memory Lane, and now they knew.

In fact, Mary Lou not only registered those who showed up representing various churches, organizations, their own families, in memory of someone special, or just because, but she actually went off-curb and gave quick lessons in Petunia Planting 101. And those who stood along the curb thanked her not only for that impromptu lesson, but also her dedication to keep it going.

Jeanette Wilson and her son, Jeff, were back again this year, and she shared memories of “the first year when it froze and we all ended up working most of the night putting newspapers over them to save them — in fact, right into the early morning. Then we had to go back first thing in the morning and take the papers off again. Remember?” And some did.

Others like Sonia Peters were back following illnesses or a time of being gone one year or another. In Sonia’s case, a broken ankle kept her away two years ago, and last year she was recovering from major back surgery.

This year, however, she was back. She worked like a treadle sewing machine, leaving a pattern down Chestnut south from the corner of Lincoln on past the church, and then kept on going. Asked how many she planted, she responded, “I don’t know,” and bent right over and kept on planting. Asked how long she planned to continue, she responded, “Until we’re done.”

When Mary Lou was asked just how many she’d guess were planted by Sonia between that Lincoln corner and the first driveway at the church, knowing she probably could figure the “indent” code that would stretch that length, she was quick to respond with two words. “A lot.” Then laughing, she suggested, “Why don’t you just go right down to the corner and count them.”

How many? Well, it’s true. A whole lot.