Missoula has long has been known as "The Garden City," but the Montana Federation of Garden Clubs hasn't held its yearly convention here since the 1950s.

But on Friday 130 members representing the state's 30 clubs is in town for a two-day event that will feature the newly installed president of the National Council of State Garden Clubs.

Deen Day Smith has been gardening for 35 years and even while the Chairman of the Board of the Cecil B. Day Investment Company (She founded Days Inn), garden club work held a special place in her heart.

"It's pretty exciting that our national president will be here because in Atlanta, she's probably as well known as Ted Turner," said Jean Thomas of Stevensville, the state club's incoming president.

"She works very closely with President Carter on Habitat for Humanity," she said.

The mother of five children and 16 grandchildren and step mother to four sons and three additional grandchildren, Smith was Georgia and national Mother of the Year in 1997.

She served on the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia and is a former member of the Fine Arts Committee of the U.S. State Department.

"I don't think that there's much that she hasn't done," said Thomas. "An incredible woman."

On Friday at noon, during a convention bus tour of area gardens, Smith will place two wreaths at Memorial Rose Garden. One will be set at the Blue Star Memorial plaque, near the southwest corner of the park along Brooks Street, and another at the center flag pole.

American Garden Clubs began sponsoring Blue Star Memorials on highways in Delaware in 1946 to commemorate men and women who served in the military.

It quickly became a nationwide effort and there are several such locations in Montana. The blue star symbolizes the blue star on the World War II service flag.

Senate Bill 352, recently signed by Gov. Racicot, dubbed Missoula Memorial Rose Garden a state veterans' memorial and a state Korean Conflict veterans' memorial. That also means the garden will be recognized on maps as such.

Senators Dale Mahlum and Mike Halligan, who introduced the bill, also will be present for Friday's ceremony, which will include presentation of the colors, a military salute and the release of doves, said Thomas.

Friday and Saturday festivities, which will be held at Doubletree Inn, will include the naming of the Gardener of the Year (a Missoula recipient), awarding of a college scholarship financed from a club endowment, business meetings, an award luncheon and two banquets.

A parade and introduction of club presidents will be held for the first time during Saturday's dinner and Smith will deliver the keynote address.

This weekend's affair, said Thomas, is the culmination of two years of work by Carol Neil of Missoula and Cathy Atkinson of Stevensville, co-chairman of the event.

Wednesday - 6/2/99

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