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With Fort Smith grad flowers imperilled, a greenhouse steps in

Hilary Turko holds a hanging basket in her Roots and Ruminants greenhouse
Hilary Turko holds a hanging basket in her Roots and Ruminants greenhouse. Photo: Adam Bathe

When Hilary Turko heard the truck carrying flowers for Fort Smith’s high school graduation might not make it through the highway closure, she invited students to help themselves at her greenhouse – free of charge.

Turko, who owns the Roots and Ruminants greenhouse, used to be a high-school teacher.

She told Cabin Radio she knows how important the graduation ceremony is to the community.

Paul W Kaeser High School (PWK) even has two graduation nights. On Thursday the school holds convocation, while on Friday it holds a family grad dinner.



“When I was teaching at [Paul W Kaeser High School], I taught [this year’s grad class] when they were in Grade 7 and 8,” she said. “So they have a special place in my heart.”

A wildfire in northern Alberta kept the highway connecting the NWT and Alberta closed for most of this week.

On Thursday, the road was reopened northbound for a limited number of “essential goods” trucks.

While a truck delivering to Kaeser’s store did make it through late on Thursday afternoon, earlier in the day, nobody was sure if the truck would arrive in time or if everything needed would be on board.



This is where Turko’s generous back-up plan comes in.

“Part of the grad tradition here is, during the grad dinner on Friday night, the grads and their escorts have a corsage and a boutonniere,” she explained.

“What I offered was … for famlies to come in and make a new style of boutonniere or corsage with the flowers and plants that are in the greenhouse.

“In a small town, you help each other out, especially during fire season when it’s so common for the roads to close.”

Roots and Ruminants isn’t the only Fort Smith business stepping up to make sure high-school graduation goes off without a hitch.

Northern Store owner Kevin MacDonald wrote on the community’s Facebook page on Thursday morning to say he had brought flowers in and would be filling up helium balloons free of charge.

“In the midst of what can be considered chaos and concern due to wildfire, we still have a lot of young people preparing for a new chapter in the journey called life,” he wrote.

He followed his post with another update saying the store’s truck was expected to arrive on Friday morning around 11am, having made it north of the NWT-Alberta border on Thursday.

“Our partners in Winnipeg [where the head office, the North West Company, is located] and our transportation team are prepared to do what is necessary to get our freight to us,” he reassured.

“It may not be on time, we may be limited to what we get, but it will come. We began this dialogue weeks ago and our team is ready to react if and when it’s needed.”