The village of Orion in Henry County, Illinois, has a colorful goal — it would like to be named "the zinnia capital of the United States."

The idea got rolling when an anonymous donor gave "tubs and tubs" of the annual flower seeds to the organization Main Street Orion. The donor's intent was that they be given away free to residents to plant in conspicuous places visible from the street.

The donor grows zinnias throughout his own yard, and in the fall he collects the blossoms, dries them on old window screens and harvests the seeds. His wife searched the internet for a "zinnia capital" and, finding none, suggested planting zinnias city-wide, as a way to put their small town "on the map," said Candice Schultz, executive director of Main Street.

The project will beautify the city as well as provide nourishment for pollinators, specifically monarch butterflies, Schultz said.

"Not only is it (going to be) pretty, it is doing something for the environment," Schultz said.

Seeds are available while supplies last at the Main Street office and Village Hall.

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"We have encouraged parents to plant with their children," Schultz said. "This would teach them about flowers as well as create a butterfly garden and teach about taking care of our environment."

Prizes for the best three displays will be awarded on Sept. 23 during the annual "Eat in the Street" event.

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