On July 22nd, everything is in place. Litter picked up, sidewalks swept, flowering baskets and half-barrels watered, the blooms overflowing, banners snapping in the wind.
And the members of the Communities in Bloom committee waiting, somewhat nervously, for the official Communities in Bloom judges to arrive, and view Bradford West Gwillimbury's community effort.
It is the final stop for judges Shauna Dobbie and Dawn Falls, who are assessing entries in the 20,000 to 50,000 population category. There were initially 5 entries, but two municipalities withdrew from the competition, leaving only Brockville, Innisfil and Bradford West Gwillimbury.
Dobbie is Editor and Publisher of Ontario Gardener Magazine, and editor of the Communities in Bloom publication. Now in her 2nd year as a judge for the provincial level of competition, she says, "It's just the best job - just the best way to see Ontario."
Falls is "brand-spankin' new" as a judge. Director of Farmers Markets Ontario, chair of the Farmers' Market in her home town of Halton Hills Communities in Bloom Committee, head of the local Horticultural Society, Falls was persuaded to take on judging duties as well. "I think it's a great program," she says. "You realize that one person can make a difference. This provides you with a venue, this can be a catalyst for so many things…You win just by entering."
On the air-conditioned coach donated by Gary Bolton, the judges are taken on a tour of the municipality - past hanging baskets, past the new Millstone sculpture, with a stop at the residence of Cathy Nesbitt, for a behind-the-scene look at vermicomposting.
Commentary is provided by several committee members, including Councillor Gary Lamb, and chair of the local Communities in Bloom Committee, Mikki Nanowski, who is also Chair of the Downtown Revitalization Committee. Nanowski waves a hand at the murals, baskets, heritage light standards and parkettes, telling the judges, "Communities in Bloom is really a way for us to show what we've done in the past 6 years…Communities in Bloom gave us the opportunity to look at our Town and to be proud."
Past the Fire Hall, where a linden tree was recently planted in memory of firefighter Jeff Hodgson, past Bob Fallis Sports Centre and "Appreciation Park", through Magani Park…
Stops include the residence of Ruth Bolt, the ponds and waterfalls of Hydrosphere Water Gardens & Fisheries on the 9th Line, the magnificent rock gardens and topiary at the entry to Vins Plastics.
It's an exploration not only for the judges but for the Committee members and guests.
At every point, the tour passes gardens and lawns at their peak, trimmed and flowering - as if the whole Town has thrown its energy into making the community bloom, prompting the comment, "What hidden treasures Bradford has!"
The tour pauses for lunch at the Danube Seniors Leisure Centre, where President Gerry Slykhuis welcomes Committee and Judges, and thanks Communities in Bloom. "The effort they put in to clean up, plant flowers…. I understand this is a 5-year project. At the end of 5 years, we're going to be on top of the world."
After a look at the Centre's own flower beds - planted by students from St. Charles Catholic School through the inter-generational "Growing Together" project - it's back onto the bus. This time, the focus is not only on gardens, but on history and heritage. Drainage Commissioner Art Janse joins the tour to talk about the pumphouse; local historian and author George Jackson provides commentary on the Marsh and history of West Gwillimbury.
The tour ends in the evening, with dinner at the Quaint House in Bond Head.
The next morning, the judges attend a working meeting of the Downtown Revitalization Committee, for a wrap up and analysis - before retiring to evaluate the Town's effort. They have praise and encouragement for the Committee.
Says Falls, "You're showcasing your Town, but you're stopping to smell the roses."
"It's the process," say Dobbie. "Participation is its own reward."
The 2003 Ontario awards celebration for Communities in Bloom takes place Sept. 19-20 in Keen, near Rice Lake. Last year in its inaugural effort, the Town received 3 out of a possible 5 blooms. This year, the committee is hoping for a bigger bouquet.
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