By Kate Merrill

CARLISLE (CBS) — Twenty-two miles northwest of Boston, this rural community was dubbed ‘City of the Woods’, by Henry David Thoreau. It is home to the first dairy farm to use a robotic milking machine and once housed a studio where artists like Aerosmith, Rihanna, and Lady Gaga all recorded music.

If you have driven through this town of about 5,000 recently, it would be tough to miss a brilliant splash of red in the center of town. “I wanted something that would be noticeable to commuters,” explained Carlisle resident Debbie Bentley.

Debbie Bentley walks Kate Merrill through the field of poppies (WBZ-TV)

Bentley is talking about the thousands of hand-made poppies that adorn the town common, and the rotary in front of Ferns Country Store. The display of flowers was Bentley’s idea, after she saw a similar exhibit in her native England to mark the centenary of the start of World War I. “I just thought gosh, this is so meaningful. It really brings home how awful this war was and how many people were lost,” she said recalling the images from London in 2014. “I thought, I would love to bring something like this to my hometown.”

It took several years of planning and lots of volunteers to create and plant over 3,000 poppies. Some are crocheted, some knitted, and some are made of felt.

Pat Hayes was one of the volunteers. An avid reader, she put down her afternoon book and picked up a crochet hook to chip in. “I could do 20 in an afternoon,” she said, explaining that she spent most summer afternoons working on it this year. From June to September she made 1,100 of the 3,000 flowers.

When we asked what she was going to do now that the project is done? “Finish a few scarfs for Christmas and then go back to reading,” she said laughing.

Poppies in Carlisle (WBZ-TV)

“It was wonderful how everyone in the community came together,” Debbie explained. “We had little kids stapling poppies. Mothers and grandmothers teaching daughters how to crochet,” she said.

By the end of the week, the poppies will be moved from the town center to a local cemetery where they will form a path between the graves of Carlisle residents who lost their lives in WWI.

Debbie hopes to make the poppy display an annual Veteran’s Day tradition in Carlisle.

Kate Merrill


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