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Gina Whipple adds a ribbon to a bouquet at the Petersen and Tietz florist store Friday in Waterloo.

WATERLOO — Flowers grow smiles — and employees from Petersen & Tietz Florists and Greenhouse hope to have people blooming from ear to ear on Wednesday.

The florists will be spreading joy and handing out 500 free mixed bouquets to passersby from 8 to 10 a.m. in downtown Waterloo and from 10 a.m. to noon on Main Street in Cedar Falls. Mayor Quentin Hart will be part of the Waterloo team, while Mayor Jim Brown will join the Cedar Falls team for a portion of the event.

Each lucky recipient of the flower-power surprise will receive two bouquets — one to keep and one to share with a friend, co-worker or stranger.

“It strikes me that there are many people who have never received flowers, and some who have never had the opportunity to give flowers. Both of those sensations — receiving and giving flowers — are such positive things. Studies have proven that,” said Heidi Tietz De Silva of Petersen and Tietz.

“So we’re going out in the community and spreading a little love and happiness. We’ve been around for 85 years, and I just think it’s important to go out and be part of the community,” explained Tietz, who will be handing out bouquets.

Petersen & Tietz is joining forces with hundreds of florists and members of the Society of American Florists across the nation in this random acts-of-kindness event. Petal It Forward is the floral industry’s way of giving back — and paying it forward, in response to Rutgers University research that shows the flowers make people happy and reduces stress.

A survey of more than 2,500 Americans showed that 80 percent of people said receiving flowers makes them feel happy, while a higher percentage of people — 88 percent — felt that giving flowers is what makes them happy. In fact, simply being around flowers can brighten someone’s mood, according to 76 percent of Americans surveyed.

“The fun thing about Petal It Forward is that it’s unexpected, it’s a Wednesday, middle of the week, no occasion whatsoever, and we’ll be saying, ‘Hey, hi, have a great day — here’s a bouquet, and here’s another one. The catch is, you have to share one with someone else,” Tietz said.

There were plenty of smiles and hugs to go around last year when Petersen & Tietz participated in their first-ever Petal It Forward. Florists in 410 cities and all 50 states participated in last year’s event.

“We heard stories about a bouquet that was passed around with yellow sticky notes, and people introducing themselves to someone they’d never met and getting a smile from giving away a bouquet. It’s just such a spontaneous reaction,” Tietz said.

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