Judges from the national America in Bloom (AIB) contest will visit Washington this week to see how the city stacks up in six different categories, including heritage preservation, environmental efforts, urban forestry, landscapes, floral displays and community involvement.
Judging will take place Thursday and Friday, July 17-18. This is the fourth year the city has entered the national awards program.
“I’m really excited about the America in Bloom judges arriving in Washington,” said Washington Mayor Sandy Lucy.
Throughout the city’s participation in the program, Lucy said she has been “amazed” at the subtle transformations that have taken place.
“When you see the accumulation of (the past three) years of subtle changes, our community looks different now,” she said. “It’s more green, there are more plantings and people are certainly taking more pride in their homes and yards.”
Lucy was quick to point out, though, that AIB is not just about having nice yards.
“They take a very comprehensive look at our city,” Lucy said, noting that judges will tour residential, commercial and municipal sectors. They will look at the city’s water consumption, recycling practices and several other facets of the community.
Washington is competing against several cities in the 10,001 to 15,000 population division, including Coshocton, Ohio, Morro Bay, Calif. and Pella, Iowa. This year’s judges are Leslie Pittenger and Bruce Riggs.
Judges have a packed schedule.
Washington in Bloom committee members, the mayor, city and other officials will lead tours.
Thursday kicks off with breakfast at a local resident’s home, followed by a tour of First and Third Parkways. Judges also will visit Water Tower Park, Krog Park monuments and the Mercy Hospital doctors building healing garden.
Viewing native plantings at Phoenix Park also is on the itinerary.
After lunch, judges will visit the Kohmueller house, Angel of Hope Garden, All-Abilities Playground and the Lions Lake gazebo.
Tours of the recycling center and butterfly garden at Rawlings wrap up the day.
Friday will begin with a breakfast at Cowan’s Restaurant.
After breakfast, judges will visit the garden at Immanuel Lutheran Church, then will tour city hall, the Washington Public Library and public safety building.
A walking tour of historic Downtown Washington, including a tour of the Farmers’ Market, will conclude morning activities.
Judges will have lunch at Lucy’s home, followed by a tour of the Washington Riverfront and trail.
A tour of StoneCrest and Washington Heights subdivisions is next on the agenda, followed by a few miscellaneous city sights.
“I think one of the things we should be proud of is the teamwork that happens and how others help us make our community beautiful,” Lucy said.
Lucy thanked Eagle Scouts, Master Gardeners, the Washington in Bloom committee, city staff and citizens for their role in helping beautify the city.
Several Eagle Scouts have taken on projects in the city, including plantings at Lions Lake gazebo, the flagpole at the main stage and at the Owens monument at Krog Park.
“It just shows the character of our community,” Lucy said, adding that the whole premise is about building on what the city already has and continually improving the place residents call home.
“Wear Your Bloomin’ Shirt Day” is set for Thursday, July 17. T-shirts are available at the Washington Parks Department office, 1220 Lakeshore Drive.
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.