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Wheel creative <br> A different sort of local garden walk puts decorated bicycles on display

Cycling and gardening top many people's lists of favorite summer activities. Now one local community has merged the two.

Clarence Center is home to Bikes in Bloom, a seasonlong display of bedecked bicycles adorned in blossoms, baskets and bows and anchored outside businesses and homes.

"My kids learned to ride on that bike," says Linda Carpenter, referring to the Brady Bunch-era Schwinn that now stands decorated outside her Goodrich Road gift shop, Yours Truly.

"My husband picked it from a garbage heap in 1973. It was a freebie. He spray-painted it blue and added a banana seat," she says.

Nearby, there's also the Lady Bug Picnic-themed display. A sweet tricycle on a porch. A patriotic presentation. And many other bikes decorated with flowers and trailing vines in baskets or planters attached to handlebars, fenders, seats and spokes. Decorative accessories, such as watering cans and even a rooster, are eye-catching, too.

While many of the 25 or so bikes are found near the four corners and especially along Goodrich Road, the project extends to a few other streets as well. The idea is that people can walk, drive, run or ride their own bikes to view them while discovering the quintessential small-town shops, eateries, charming homes and scenery the center has to offer.

"We obviously want people to see what we offer as businesses but also the historic and architectural aspects of Clarence Center," says Marta Carney, president of the Meet in the Center Merchants Association, which is sponsoring the event.

There's also a nearby bike path, as well as a fair share of bicycling residents in the area.

Carpenter, for one, belongs to the Outspokins, a group of women she recalls coming together in the late '60s and making a ritual of riding bikes on Wednesday mornings.

"We were a bunch of Girl Scout moms," says Carpenter, who joined in the 1970s.

Local nurseries, landscapers, designers and business owners have decorated bikes, as have some homeowners -- including Jane and John Floss on Creekview Drive.

Their four sons are grown -- their bikes long gone -- but Jane Floss was game to participate. In need of a bike, she called upon Charles Daigler -- a neighbor who for years refurbished bikes, including the ones her sons had outgrown. He then donated the bikes to those in need.

Might he still have an old bike around that she could decorate? she asked. Possibly one with old-fashioned fenders and back rack?

He did not, but his brother did. It had the retro features she was hoping for but no kickstand. So he found one in his shed and put it on for her.

Floss decorated the bike with pink geraniums, white Diamond Frost, licorice plant, purple verbena and lobelia, white impatiens, yellow daisies, a watering can and old baskets from the attic. Even with recent downpours, the bike has stayed in place thanks to metal stakes donated by yet another neighbor.

It's that kind of community, Floss says.

Maps -- with a "Best in Show" ballot attached so viewers can vote on their favorite bicycle -- can be picked up at the following businesses: NovelTea, L'Atelier Culinary, Yours Truly, Get Heeled, the Perfect Gift, Clarence Center Coffee Company & Cafe, Del Monte Hair Systems and the Clarence Center Preschool.

The free, self-guided walk continues through Sept. 15.

e-mail: smartin@buffnews.com

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