(Not) Fluffing Flowers

I have a secret to admit.

I’ve never fluffed a flower.

Or pleated for that matter.

Or cut, counted, trimmed, glued.

Or all the other myriad of ways a fluffed flower comes into existence.

And for many who read those words, I imagine that’s your story, too.

Not many know the work involved in fluffing flowers for hours on end or seeing the flowers come together into a beautiful picture. Not too many understand the intricacies of how to fold the paper in just the right way. Not many have spent hours looking over every single flower and cutting just a bit more here and there and making sure that everything is even.

But if you mention the words related to fluffed and paper flowers in Cole Camp, Missouri, everyone knows what you mean.  

The words, “fluffed flower,” come with a host of memories, stories, pictures, laughs, and joy.

Yet, I’ve never taken part in the actual fluffing of the flowers. I’m not sure but I imagine there are only a few of us in this town who’ve never laid their hands on the paper flowers. I’ve walked into the bank and witnessed the tellers fluffing flowers. Friends have shared their memories of fluffing flowers on breaks during high school. Older members recall the many hours sitting in their living room with a box and paper. But I’ve never actually done the work myself.   

I can recognize beautiful art when I see it - and the fluffed flowers are just that - beautiful, intricate creations.

Every year for three days during the weekend following Labor Day, the town of Cole Camp comes alive during The Cole Camp Fair. Children are off from school. Friends and family come back for the weekend. It’s class and family reunions. It’s a time to find beauty in the everyday. It’s a celebration of all things that make this small town life so beautiful: farming, produce, crafts, games, parades, food stands, music, dancing, friends, and family. And of course the fluffed flower floats.

Every night a parade passes through downtown. The streets lined with people of all ages; people who have been sitting in the same spot year after year. People who year after year watch the tractors, antique cars, bands, businesses, fire trucks, elected officials, and the floats parade down the street.

Fluffed flower floats.

This will only be my 6th fair and my 6th year witnessing the floats. But I’ve seen enough to make my eyes widen and my jaw drop. I’ve seen enough to be almost brought to tears with the amount of work, creativity, commitment, and inspiration that the floats display. I’ve seen enough to know what pride comes parading down the street night after night, year after year.

These floats are works of art.  

You can always count on churches to enter a float in the parade. As well as the high school senior class and the Lutheran school association. I’ve heard that in the past families would make them, too. And some businesses. I’ve seen floats depicting everything from church scenes to the Flintstones, to animals of all shapes and sizes singing in a choir, and even Scooby Doo. Some have motorized parts. Some are pulled by cars or tractors. Some cars are turned into floats and you can’t even tell there’s a vehicle underneath. And every last inch of every float: covered in paper flowers.

Throughout the summer you can find the different groups working away on their floats. It’s somewhat of a secret what every group is making. That is until they roll down the street on the first night of the fair.

And every time they take my breath away.

Maybe I’m nervous to actually get my hands on the paper and take a turn at fluffing. Maybe I’m too impatient to sit for hours and make the same shape and size flower over and over.

Or maybe I like to live in this inbetween mystery where I see the steps coming together while at the same time watching the shapes and pictures coming to fruition. At times I see the holiness of this work. Friends and family sitting together for hours creating. Using their hands. Dreaming of new designs. Thinking of new ways to be different. And in between the folding, fluffing, and gluing, there’s conversation. There’s sharing of the days work and school. The joys and the challenges. There’s stories of past fairs and memories. There’s remembering those who’ve been a part of the float making and are no longer here to be a part. There’s give and take deciding how to decorate and what color flower should go where. There’s stories of the every day.

So I’ve never fluffed a flower.

But I’ve seen beauty, inspiration, and creativity.
And I’ve seen God’s work through the hands and hearts of this town.