Once upon a time; long ago, Neosho’s greatest claim to fame was proudly displayed on the ‘Welcome to Neosho’ sign. I was a mere child, but clearly remember the sign with its row of blooming flowers.

Once upon a time; long ago, Neosho’s greatest claim to fame was proudly displayed on the ‘Welcome to Neosho’ sign. I was a mere child, but clearly remember the sign with its row of blooming flowers.
Neosho won that fame found on the sign thanks to many Newton County residents coming together to beautify Neosho with hundreds of flower boxes filled with many different varieties of flowers. But even before 1957, Neosho had boxes filled with flowers, yards filled with flowers, and grounds filled with flowers. They simply did flower boxes ‘on steroids’ in 1957!
To be known as ‘The Flower Box City’ was the coveted All-America City Award from Look magazine and the National Municipal League for all cities. Neosho won.
This event could only have happened because of the number of businesses, private individuals, and volunteers that came together to fill Neosho with more than flowers. Pet Milk donated four hundred wooden barrels to plant flowers in. Junior Chamber of Commerce members formed an assembly line to build another two hundred boxes from local lumber yards purchased at cost. Town nurseries supplied flowers and plants; mostly at cost.
It was a community effort.
 Every business, home, and church had boxes lining their buildings and property. Even trash cans were set out with flowers in full bloom covering the tops. The love and passion was and is evident today in the number of people carrying on the tradition of flower boxes and flower gardens adorning the yards and businesses in Neosho. It didn’t stop at Neosho city limits. The beautification soon stretched to other towns and cities. Ritchey’s old grocery store still has the remnants of a flower box that I put Bells of Ireland in. Granby has a few remaining boxes on defunct businesses and houses. I probably fell in love with terracotta pots and wrought iron holders because of the house across from the Granby hospital filled with every color flower I could imagine; boldly fenced in majestic four foot wrought iron with a beautiful gate. When I see some of the old pieces, it brings back the beauty I’m so fond of; that Mayberry feeling.  
On the morning of May 12th, at ten o’clock, a piece of that tradition will take place at the Newton County courthouse. Newton County maintenance workers and county commissioner has prepared the beds. In just a few hours, master gardeners and county commissioners will transform bare earth into a blooming oasis.
My family has been privileged to help with this transformation for the last few years. I’ve truly enjoyed working with the commissioners, local greenhouse, master gardeners, and 4-H. It is a labor of love for me. My husband and I ride around the square watching the tiny plants push upward, blossoms form, and flowers burst forth in all their glory. They fill the air with their fragrance, are candy for the eye, and tame the soul in a way nothing else can.  
Every time I work this transformation, I try to find one different flower to plant. I hope the community takes the time to see these changes take place.
You are invited to come visit, help, and take pictures of our county commissioner getting their hands really dirty.
Happy Gardening!

Linda Simmons writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.