Judges from the America in Bloom (AIB) national awards program will visit Washington Thursday and Friday, July 17 and 18.

This is the fourth year the city has entered the national awards program. Washington is one of 33 towns across America working on local revitalization programs with the hopes of receiving an America in Bloom national award.

America in Bloom is an independent nonprofit 501c3 corporation. It envisions communities across the country as welcoming and vibrant places to live, work, and play — benefiting from colorful plants and trees; enjoying clean environments; celebrating heritage; and planting pride through volunteerism.

“It’s a genuine privilege for our city to host these national judges,” said Sally Bocklage, Washington in Bloom chair. “Inviting trained professionals to tour residential, business and municipal sectors of our community brings new insight as well as positive feedback. We are so excited to showcase this beautiful city.”

In the final few days prior to the judges’ arrival, the Washington in Bloom steering committee will be looking for great curb appeal and overall impression throughout the city.

“It would be a remarkable goal for every neighborhood, every business and industry to look their very best,” Bocklage said. “Washingtonians always put forth effort to excel and there is no better time than now.”

“Wear Your Bloomin’ Shirt Day” is set for Thursday. This also be day one of the touring with the national judges and seeing the T-shirts all around town would be a nice show of support, Bocklage said.

T-shirts are available at the Washington Park Department office, 1220 Lakeshore Drive.


Washington is competing against several cities categorized by population, including Coshocton, Ohio. Morro Bay, Calif.. and Pella, Iowa, in the 10,001 to 15,000 population division.

Cities will be judged on the judges’ overall impression, as well as efforts in heritage preservation, environmental efforts, urban forestry, landscapes, floral displays and community involvement.

Judges will evaluate the criteria in the residential, commercial and municipal sectors.

This year’s judges are Leslie Pittenger and Bruce Riggs.

Although Pittenger’s “official” position is as the city auditor for Belpre, Ohio, her passion for the improvement of her area has inspired community volunteers. She is an active member of the Belpre Garden Club and works with local students to complete environmental and beautification projects.

Riggs currently freelances in horticulture and is involved in several not-for-profit institutions. He is involved in a family landscape design business with his wife Melanie Menachem Riggs, who is also an AIB judge. They reside in New Rochelle, N.Y.

Additionally, Riggs recently held the position of Curator of Science at the Bruce Museum of Arts & Science in Greenwich, Conn.

During his 18 years at the New York Botanical Garden, he was very involved with the Horticulture and Education divisions. He has worked on projects for the American Association of Museums and the Institute of Museum Studies. He also has been very involved with Mountain Top Arboretum in Tannersville, N.Y., serving as president since 1998.


Participants in the America in Bloom contest have opportunities to receive recognition in the following areas: bloom rating, population category winner, outstanding achievement award — the “best of the best” overall participants in each of the six evaluated criteria, special mention, for what the judges deem to be an extraordinary project or program, community champion and YouTube video award.

Population category winners are invited to participate in international competition via the Communities in Bloom program in Canada.

To date, more than 220 towns and cities from 41 states have participated in the program. Awards will be announced on Oct. 4 at AIB’s National Symposium and Awards, to be held in Philadelphia, Pa.