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NOTE: Several Bluffton groups are considering entering Bluffton into the America in Bloom judging. Susie Stratton of Stratton Greenhouses is one of the judges in an entry in the contest submitted by Gallipolis, Ohio. Here's a story about the contest.
FROM GALLIPOLIS (OHIO) DAILY TRIBUNE — America in Bloom judges Susie Stratton and Stephen Pategas inspected the beautification efforts of Gallipolis in Bloom throughout town Monday and Tuesday in what GIB members hope will put Gallipolis ahead of its competition in the national contest.
America in Bloom is an organization based in Columbus that promotes community enhancement programs through the use of flowers, plants and trees. Gallipolis in the past has conducted several titles.
American in Bloom judges each town participating in the beautification contest on six criteria: floral displays, landscaped areas, urban forestry, environmental efforts, heritage preservation and overall impression annually across the nation.
Judges began their journey Monday at the Gallipolis City Building and then moved on to investigate the city’s waterfront and Gallipolis City Park.
Pategas told the Tribune that one of the first things that popped out to the judges — and one of the more enjoyable — was seeing the number of volunteers lending a hand to Gallipolis in Bloom efforts. He remarked that, “hands down, there have been lots of pink shirts,” in reference to the t-shirts GIB members often wear.
“But the other thing, too, is the beauty of your community,” Stratton said. “The parks, the flowers and it’s very impressive when you see homes and businesses who have jumped on board. It’s just like the momentum that has been created by the GIB community is very apparent.”
Pategas said its like “scratching away multiple layers because one must note the levels of government, business and private interests” that come together to make Gallipolis in Bloom what it is.
Stratton said she felt her enthusiasm for “trying to get communities on board with making their place better” was one of her strengths she brought to the judging table.
Stratton said it takes one person to get the momentum of a movement going and she related that back to what had happened with Gallipolis in Bloom. She said she also understood what it took to partner with private businesses to get gardening endeavors in motion.
Pategas said that during his time spent in Florida as a private landscape architect, he’s worked with numerous government agencies as well as nonprofits involved with beautification projects. He said he felt this gave him a perspective into the relationships between civic organizations inside of a community.
Between the pair they have six years of judging experience with America in Bloom.
“When you come into a community, you can’t help but be hit with the overall impression,” Stratton said about her initial observations of an area while judging. “Then you start pealing away the layers of how things work, you learn about things like a (community’s) tree heritage program or their ordinances and historic preservation (efforts). You find out how deep the layers are. It’s not just all about flowers or green grass. It’s about how the community works together and volunteerism. How are you engaging the entire community?”
“There are some communities that are already well-established and some are trying to pull themselves up by their bootstraps,” Pategas said about towns involved with beautification projects.
“All of your recommendations are valuable to them, but you also want to warn them of the dangers of not being proactive. It’s not always about grow, grow, grow. You’ve got to try to protect some of the core of what is had. There’s danger there if you don’t have policies and ordinances in place to protect what’s in place.”
GIB will not learn of its competition standings until an America in Bloom symposium Oct. 6-8 in Arroya Grande, Calif.