Sunday, August 2, 2015

Class of Champions - Communities in Bloom judges tour Pincher Creek

Chris Davis and Toni Lucas

Communities in Bloom national judges Lorraine Hunter and Gerry Teahen visited Pincher Creek last week, making stops at many locations of interest in their journey to deciding which is the best Communities in Bloom (CIB) Class of Champions - Small Category community in Canada.  We're contending with 5 other communities for the title.  The finished their official visit with a dinner at Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village, attended by a number of local dignitaries and green thumbs.

Judges Lorraine Hunter and Gerry Teahen with Pincher Creek Businesses in Bloom (Commercial category) winner Judy Unruh of  Builders World.

The weather didn't exactly co-operate with the judges' visit, but neither was it foul, and there were enough sprinklings of rain for Pincher to be at its greenest.  The sky was too rarely blue for the photo opportunities, and the mood was undampened.

“People, plants and pride… growing together”

Communities in Bloom is a Canadian non-profit organization committed to fostering civic pride, environmental responsibility and beautification through community involvement and the challenge of a national program, with focus on enhancing green spaces in communities. Established with the guidance of Britain in Bloom, Tidy Towns of Ireland and Villes et Villages Fleuris de France, Communities in Bloom held its first edition in 1995 and 29 participating municipalities were honoured at the first awards ceremonies on Parliament Hill. The program now includes hundreds of communities across the country and an international challenge involving communities from the United States, Asia and several European countries allows participants to compete internationally. -

The seed for local CIB involvement started with a planting group organized circa 1996/1997, in the wake of the 1995 flood, that later evolved to become the Pincher Planters. The town of Pincher Creek has been involved with Communities in Bloom since 2000 and won at the National level in 2009.

Taking a tour of Cenotaph Park
During the tour CIB Judge Lorraine Hunter evaded questions that attempted to extract a hint about how our community is stacking up against the other 5.  She said we were  "Looking good, that's the problem, they all look good." 

"It's challenging for us because these towns are lovely, all of them."

"Your town's done a lot," added Hunter.

Here again is the small list of beautiful communities in our category:
How did we get into such exalted company?  The hard work of dedicated and determined volunteers, with the Pincher Planters leading forays into thickets of endless toil.  I hope I made that sound like fun, because they sure have a lot of fun doing it.

The judges are volunteers.  According to Lorraine Hunter she was asked to be a judge because Communities in Bloom wants a variety of different backgrounds.  She certainly fills that bill.  "I'm drawn to the plants and things, because, actually, I'm a journalist. Mostly, we've been writing about gardening, but I know it's not just all about the flowers."  Landscape, tidiness, volunteerism, forestry, and heritage all count toward the scoring. "I think the heritage of each area is really important because that's what's really different in each place." 

Hunter is a master gardener, and finds she learns when she has to answer questions. "There is always so much more to learn."  She said she found that having lived in larger more urban settings, taking the time to be in smaller communities was really educational. "I'm walking downtown with people who know people all the way along, I think it's a very positive experience."  She added she has encountered and witnessed a lot of cooperation and goodwill while judging.

Detail from garden at Builders World
After "a large amount of training" from Toronto Botanical Garden, she hit the trail with fellow judge Gerry Teahen.  

CIB judges Gerry Teahen and Lorraine Hunter
Gerry Teahen's a veteran, serving as a CIB judge for 14 years after a stint in municipal politics, serving on St. Mary's Ontario Town Council, and also serving as Mayor of St. Mary's for 9 years.

He admitted he's probably going to have to quit the long hours and distances of judging sometime soon, but seems to really enjoy it still.

Judging comes with perks like a stay at the Bloomin' Inn
He had been involved in getting his community involved in CIB, and was later ask to consider if he would be a judge. He filled out the application. "Here I am 14 years later, still loving it."
"There is six criteria we look at," he explained,  tidiness, landscape, turf, landscaping, floral display, and urban forestry.  "It's not necessarily about flowers."

"Your in the winners category. So everybody's going up against winners, and everybody is winners, regardless if you win, place show, or whatever you do, you're a winner."

"It's all about community pride. Certainly, from what we've been seeing in Pincher Creek you have a lot of community pride, a lot of volunteerism, and we wouldn't have this turn out of people around supporting us, or have three papers here to talk to us if we didn't see that there was a lot of pride and community support.  "A lot of volunteers."

^ Judge Gerry Teahen at Rotary's ornamental park next to the Legion
Teahen is a Rotarian, and paused several times during the tour to take pictures of various community projects sponsored by Rotary.  He said he was pleased to see we have such an active Rotary.

^ MD of Pincher Creek Reeve Brian Hammond and Town of Pincher Creek Mayor Don Anderberg at KBPV dinner event.

The dinner held at Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village on July 27 began with speeches from Town of Pincher Creek Mayor Don Anderberg, MD of Pincher Creek Reeve Brian Hammond, Organizer Supreme Dian Burt Stuckey, and the judges, and included a presentation to the Pincher Planters, of whom many were in attendance.

^ Colleen and Fran Cyr of the Pincher Creek and District Historical Society (which runs Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village) also hosted the judges at their Bloomin' Inn, located just east of the town of Pincher Creek.

Mayor Don Anderberg gave kudos to the efforts of people in the entire area. He thanked Town staff and the volunteers and many organizations and sponsors involved.  Reeve Brian Hammond thanked the Town of Pincher Creek for spearheading the local involvement with Communities in Bloom. "I am certain that people visiting here, wherever they're from, take back a very positive message about how the community looks." He too spoke well of the volunteer commitment. "Ordinary folks live here and take pride in their community, and are willing to come out and make a personal commitment in their own way without a whole lot of hoopla, and just go ahead and make the community look like a better place."

Pincher Creek and District Historical Society President Colleen Cyr and Town Councillor Jim Litkowski at KBPV dinner event.
Town Councillor Wayne Elliott
Also in attendance were Town councillors Wayne Elliott , Jim Litkowski, Lorne Jackson, and Doug Thornton, MD of Pincher Creek councillor Garry Marchuk, and Bev Thornton of AlbertaSW. 

Betty Jean Scott spoke on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce, recognizing the efforts of the Oldman Rose Society and the Pincher Planters.

Gerry Teahen said he really liked the name 'Pincher Planters'. "I think that if I lived here, I'd probably be one of you."

"Your hospitality has been absolutely wonderful," Teahen said.  "You're a very impressive community, I can say that."

"I think it's a wonderful program, and to see all the volunteers and how they work together and how the town recognizes what volunteers do, I think is wonderful." 

Teahen reminded everyone that if Pincher Creek wins nationally we are eligible to compete internationally.  Growers - always looking to the next season.

Director of Community Services Diane Burt Stuckey
Diane Burt-Stuckey led the crowd in a rendition of 'Johnny Appleseed'.  Pretty much everybody from around here knew all the words.  Truth.  Stuckey said CIB helps promote civic pride, environmental responsibility, and beautification through community involvement, and friendly competition with similar sized communities.

"We are still growing and changing, as a community," Burt-Stuckey said, relating that to a time 4 years ago when she was seeing the spray paint outlines of the rose garden that is now flourishing at the Lebel.

The judges had one more stop after Pincher Creek, the Town of Millet, Alberta,  before beginning their final deliberations.

Related story:
2015 Businesses in Bloom winners announced

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