By Mike Jiggens
COMMUNITIESâ€ˆin Bloom is 15 years old and is showing no signs of slowing down.
The Canada-wide competition which fosters civic pride, environmental
responsibility and beautification through community involvement
recently held its national awards ceremony in Vaughan, Ont., where
several municipalities of various sizes were formally honoured for
their efforts in 2009.
Communities in Bloom was originally established with the guidance of
Britain in Bloom, Tidy Towns of Ireland and Villes et Villages Fleuris
de France, and held its first edition in 1995 with 29 participating
municipalities across Canada.
Fifteen years later, more than 500 communities from coast to coast are taking part along with an international challenge involving municipalities from the United States, Japan and several European countries.
Communities receive information and are evaluated either provincially or nationally by a volunteer jury of trained professionals on the accomplishments of an entire community on eight key criteria: tidiness, environmental awareness, community involvement, natural and cultural heritage conservation, urban forestry, landscaped areas, floral displays, and turf and ground covers.
The pride, sense of community and feeling of accomplishment generated through participation are visible in communities all over Canada. These benefits make the program a winner of all participants. Municipalities taking part in the competition can benefit financially through community tourism initiatives, business opportunities for the entire community, and other related projects.
All participants are showcased on the Communities in Bloom website through the “Explore our Communities” section, with a description page and a link to their respective community website.
Held each year in conjunction with the program’s awards ceremony is a national symposium on parks and grounds. The event presents an opportunity for elected officials, parks and grounds professionals and community volunteers to learn and share about current issues, trends and challenges, not only in horticulture and gardening but in community tourism and projects, environmental awareness and more. Workshops and award ceremonies are also held in all provinces throughout the year.
A spinoff of Communities in Bloom—WinterLights Celebrations—was created in 2001 to recognize overall community efforts in such categories as winter pleasures, festive celebrations, visual presentation, goodwill program and tourism/promotion. The WinterLights Celebrations symposium and awards ceremonies take place each year in February.
A Communities in Bloom Foundation was established to support the educational aspects of its activities, and is dedicated to funding, developing and disseminating education and awareness to a wide audience on the value, improvement, importance and sustainable development of green spaces and natural environment in Canadian society. The foundation also awards bursaries to students in horticulture or environmental programs.
At its recent awards ceremony in Vaughan, Communities in Bloom paid tribute to the top finishers in nine different population classes as well as the top military base in Canada.
Also acknowledged were the winners of the International Challenge, the Best Blooming Community award winner and communities which earned criteria awards.
Presiding over the awards ceremony were Communities in Bloom national chairman Ted Blowes of Stratford, Ont. and president and founder Raymond Carriere.