Marigolds on Main Street Saint John

Marigold project assists in developing civic pride

New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal
Tue Jun 7 2011

SAINT JOHN – Every June, Barry Ogden stands on the sidelines on Main Street while thousands of children plant a sea of bright marigolds on the north end street.

As the children plant the flowers they’ve been learning about since March, Ogden enjoys “a feeling of fulfillment,” knowing children are gaining a sense of community pride.

On Thursday, thousands of children will decorate Main Street with the orange flowers for the 14th year in a row.

The festivities start at 9 a.m. when children will parade down the street. After a ceremony, the planting will begin.

At this year’s event, two people who have worked with kids in the community will receive the first-ever Marigold Award.

This year’s recipients are Debbie Cooper for her work with the Boys and Girls Club of Saint John and J.K. Irving for his work with the PALS (Partners Assisting Local Schools) program.

“We have to say ‘thank you’ more in our community and I think we have to encourage more goodness,” said Ogden, who created the award.

“By saying thank you sometimes, that really encourages good things to happen.”

Children will present the award to Cooper and Irving and the award itself will reside in Centennial School, where the Marigold tradition was started by Ogden and City of Saint John leisure services commissioner Bernie Morrison in 1997.
Since then, about 2.3 million marigolds have been planted and the project has spread to 55 sites across school districts 6 and 8.
“We’re promoting the whole idea that we’re not just growing marigolds but we’re growing children,” Ogden said.
“It’s a tourist attraction, it’s a learning tool, it’s a way to create pride in the community, it’s a way to create unity in the community.”

This year, the marigold project has spread to the Saint John Regional Hospital, where students from Hazen White-St. Francis School planted the flowers on Monday.

The partnership was a natural fit because the hospital is one of the school’s PALS partners, Ogden said.

“I called the Regional one day and just asked them if they would be interested in having a marigold garden.”

ONE (Old North End) Change will also plant marigolds at the bottom of Main Street for the first time this year, while Ogden is in talks with University of New Brunswick Saint John Seawolves quarterback Jeremy McAulay to arrange for a new mural to be painted on Paradise Row.

The mural that’s there now was painted back in 1999 and is starting to show its age.

The planning for the beautification initiative starts in January every year, when Ogden starts making calls to potential sponsors.

Hundreds of volunteers from Saint John to Sussex play a role in making the project happen.

Ogden hasn’t ruled out expanding his idea to other school districts in the province, but overseeing the marigold project at 55 sites already takes 10 months of work a year.
Even though the project requires a lot of work, Ogden can’t help but be amazed by how much his idea continues to grow.

“When you say Marigolds, people smile,” he said. “I think it’s really helping to change the community.”

The Marigold Project, Decade Celebration

Marigolds on Main Street Decade Celebration

Marigold on Main celebrated its 10 year anniversary on June 6, 2007.

Barry Odgen and the Marco Polo

Frustration builds as Marco Polo project stalls

New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal 
Mon Jun 6 2011
Page: C4
Section: City
SAINT JOHN – After putting 25 years worth of work and money into building a 90-by-65-foot replica of the Marco Polo, Barry Ogden is frustrated with how long it is taking to find it a home.
The freshly painted clipper ship, which will never see water, only needs a mast and bowsprit to be finished.
“I’m a very patient person, you have to be when you put projects together, but it does take a long time in this community to make things happen,” Ogden said.
“You don’t ever want to give up but it does get very frustrating.”
The ship is under shrink wrap at a west side storage facility, but the model was only supposed to stay there until last Tuesday.
“We are under pressure to move. The people are being very nice to us,” Ogden said.
Enterprise Saint John and Uptown Saint John are supposed to conduct a study that will identify potential sites and address ownership issues, said Enterprise Saint John CEO Steve Carson.
The study was supposed to be complete by the end of the winter, but Carson says they need to wait for funding before they can even begin the study.
Enterprise Saint John and Uptown Saint John have applied to the Regional Development Corporation, a provincial crown corporation that co-ordinates regional and economic development initiatives, for money to conduct the study.
But the executive director of Uptown Saint John says the group isn’t getting very far.
“We were looking to the province to help cost-share in the project and unfortunately it doesn’t look like they will be doing that anytime soon,” Peter Asimakos said.
“We’re now going to discuss how we may be able to facilitate this as partner organizations.”
Saint John Portland MLA and Minister of Tourism and Parks Trevor Holder said he’s been in discussions with Ogden and Enterprise Saint John on the Marco Polo, but he hasn’t spoke to them recently.
“I’ve indicated to them I will continue to work with them to try and find a solution,” Holder said.
“If we can be part of the solution, we will be. I certainly have some calls in around government that could be helpful down the road.”
The replica is an important piece of the Bay of Fundy story the province is trying to market, the minister said.
A company that specializes in moving large loads has offered to move the boat for free once the ship has a home.
Ogden suggests the city needs to adopt more of a can-do attitude.
“I know we don’t like to be compared to Moncton but they definitely have a can-do attitude,” he said.
“What I find in this community is there’s two things that hold us back – negative attitudes and division.”