Just as summer turns to fall, the cities who planted America In Bloom in their towns this spring reaped the rewards of their efforts at the Ninth Annual America In Bloom Symposium & Awards Program in St. Louis last week.
America In Bloom is an independent nonprofit organization that plants civic pride by engaging municipalities and their citizens in educational programs and organizing a national competition to recognize communities for their efforts. More than 180 towns have participated to date, including nearly 30 this year.
Each participating town was judged on eight criteria: floral displays, urban forestry, landscaping, turf and groundcovers, tidiness, environmental awareness, heritage preservation and community involvement. Specially trained judges visited towns of similar populations and spent two days touring the town, meeting municipal officials, residents and volunteers:
The population category winners were announced at the banquet Saturday night. Garden celebrity Joe Lamp’l of Growing A Greener World and AIB’s Executive Director Laura Kunkle were the emcees. “I’m a big fan of America In Bloom and have followed AIB for a number of years,” Lamp’l says. “I wholeheartedly believe in what you do. You are cultivating community within communities. You’re not only making them more livable but more sustainable.”
The 2010 population category winners are:
- Echo, Ore.–Under 2,000 population
- Lewes, Del.–2,001-4,000 population
- Charles City, Iowa–4,001-10,000 population
- Tipp City, Ohio–10,001-15,000 population
- Arroyo Grande, Calif.–15,001-25,000 population
- Westfield, N.J.–25,001-50,000 population
- Bloomington, Ind.–50,001-100,000 population
In addition to the population category awards, criteria awards were presented based on feedback from the teams of judges on outstanding efforts they witnessed. These criteria awards go to one community among all the AIB entrants across all population categories.
The 2010 criteria award winners are:
- Shipshewana, Ind.–Floral Displays Award sponsored by Ball Horticultural Co.
- Westfield, N.J.–Landscaped Areas Award sponsored by OFA–The Association of Horticulture Professionals
- Addison, Texas–Turf & Groundcover Areas
- Arroyo Grande, Calif.–Community Involvement Award sponsored by the American Horticultural Society
- Fayetteville, Ark.–Environmental Awareness Award
- Bloomington, Ind.–Urban Forestry Award sponsored by J. Frank Schmidt & Son
- Rising Sun, Ind.–Tidiness Award
- Webster Groves, Mo.–Heritage Preservation Award sponsored by Meister Media Worldwide
Arroyo Grande also won the first YouTube video contest, capturing what AIB has done for their town. And Bob Lund, a local business owner in Arroyo Grande, won the second annual John R. Holmes III Community Champion Award. The winner must come from a city that has participated in AIB and recognizes an individual who, in the view of the board of directors, best exemplifies community leadership through actions that reflect the mission of the organization. The award honors the memory of John Holmes, the late CEO of OFA, who was an AIB board member and officer since the organization’s inception.
Dave Williams of Williams Nursery, who planted the effort in Westfield, was also a finalist for community champion and was thrilled to see Westfield take home the Landscaped Areas Award and win its population category.
“It was a lot of work but it was well worth it. Our town looks beautiful,” Williams says. He advises other growers and garden center retailers to take the plunge. “Just do it! At first it’s like when you’re about to step into a cold pool and you’re not sure about it. Find a strong partner in your community who has the contacts you don’t have and together you’ll make a great team and make it happen.”
St. Louis was a wonderful venue the awards and symposium. Event chairs were AIB board member Evelyn Alemanni and Bill Ruppert of Gateway Greening and National Nursery Products. In addition to being supported by a vibrant green industry that is transforming downtown, urban neighborhoods and surrounding suburbs, it was a great venue for cities from all over to learn how to do the same in their towns and be recognized for their efforts. Tour St. Louis’ community gardens and catch the highlights of the symposium in the slideshow below.