By the time this story is posted, the Castlegar’s judging will be over and local Communities in Bloom (CiB) representatives will be breathing a collective sigh of relief.
Castlegar is a national finalist this year, going flower-to-flower against Stettler, Alta., Dryden, Ont., and Yarmouth, N.S. Last year, in its rookie year of national competition, Castlegar won four blooms (out of a possible five).
This year, international-level judges Diane Clasen, of Cincinnati, and Ted Zarudny, of Brampton, were in town Monday and Tuesday to assess the city based on eight categories, each of which includes 125 criteria points for judging.
“It’s a set grid that’s the same for every community,” said Darlene Kalawsky, with Castlegar CiB. “We’ll also give them what’s called a ‘brag book’, with an overview of our year’s work, and also a technical booklet (addressing everything from maintenance schedules and watering sequences to bylaws and city policy).”
This year’s technical element, as assembled by city director of development services Phil Markin, will highlight the city’s newly-formed ‘green’ committee and the sustainability measures undertaken as a result.
“We’ll be touring the city with deputy mayor Kevin Chernoff, seeing presentations from different community groups in different areas of the city, like the community garden, showing off arts and culture initiatives like Concerts in the Park and the city’s Art Walk, and the judges will get a chance to just talk to people on the street as we tour the downtown core on foot,” Kalawsky said. “We really do go all over, so they get a sense of the whole community.”
This broad perspective is critical to successful judging, as the criteria cover far more than mere esthetics – the goal is to prove Castlegar is more than just a pretty face, as it were.
Areas of evaluation include tidiness, environmental awareness, community involvement, heritage conservation, urban forestry, landscaped areas, floral displays, and turf and groundcovers. The evaluation is based on the local conditions and achievements of citizens, businesses, organizations, institutions and the municipal government working together towards common objectives.
Kalawsky said the program is beneficial for more than just an outside pat on the back – it puts Castlegar on the map as an engaged and attractive community, allows for networking with other communities forwarding similar goals, and an element of judging involves providing feedback and suggestions that will help direct next year’s efforts in a productive manner. Kalawsky pointed out it would cost a small fortune for the city to hire consultants of the calibre of these visiting judges but, with CiB, the city gets their input for free.
“It’s an exciting opportunity for the (CiB) committee and for the community,” she said.
Results will be announced Oct. 2 and 3 at a conference in Vaughan, Ont.
Finally, Kalawsky said, it’s important to remember that the judging is just two days long, while the program is a year-round effort.
“Just because the judges are going doesn’t mean the work stops,” she said. “We work year-round, and hope residents will keep the program in their minds all year as well.” We’re doing this, she added, not to impress judges, but to improve the quality of life for residents of, and visitors to, Castlegar. “The judging is just the icing on the cake,” she said.