Celebrating the 10th anniversary of America in Bloom, citizens in more than 20 towns across America are working on local revitalization programs as they prepare for visits from America in Bloom (AIB) judges. These towns are planting, cleaning and doing everything they can to be in the running to be named the best blooming, most livable town in America.
The America in Bloom competition is open to towns and cities of all sizes. The smallest town has been Shipshewana, Ind., with a population of 536, and the largest is Chicago. To date, nearly 200 towns and cities from 38 states have participated in the program and more than 21 million people have been touched by it. Towns are compared to others in the same population category.
Judging will begin in May and continue through early August. America in Bloom is the only program of its type in the United States that sends pairs of specially trained judges to visit each participating town for two days of extensive touring, interviews with municipal representatives and meetings with community volunteers. Judges evaluate eight criteria:
– Community involvement
– Environmental effort
– Heritage preservation
– Urban forestry
– Landscaped areas
– Floral displays
– Turf and groundcover areas.
These criteria are examined across three sectors: commercial, municipal and residential.
Judges will prepare an extensive written evaluation offering observations of exceptional practices and suggestions for improvements. It is given to the community after awards are announced in October. Many towns use these evaluations as a blueprint for further enhancements to their quality of life and to support grant applications.
While several of the 2011 competing towns are back in the program after many years of participation, others are first-time entries. Cheltenham Township, Pa., is in the non-compete category, which offers an opportunity to experience the program without receiving a numerical score or be eligible for awards.
Participants have opportunities to receive recognition in the following areas:
– Population category winner
– Criteria award–the “best of the best” overall across all population categories in each of the eight evaluated criteria.
– Special mention–for what the judges deem to be an extraordinary project or program
Population category winners are invited to participate in international competition via the Communities in Bloom program in Canada. Current and past participants are eligible to win a cash prize in the America in Bloom YouTube competition, by submitting a short video describing the impact of the program on their town.
“Our participants have told us that they are all winners beginning with the day they decide to be part of the America in Bloom family,” says Laura Kunkle, AIB’s executive director. “The effort of being part of the program makes such a visible difference and generates so much excitement in each town that they are all better for it, not just during their years of participation, but for years afterwards. Participation in America in Bloom makes a lasting impression and can change the way a city looks at itself and how its various sectors work together.”
Awards will be announced on October 6-8 at AIB’s Educational Symposium & Awards Program, held this year in the Washington, D.C. area. Learn more about AIB online at AmericaInBloom.org.