Another year and another five blooms for Stettler in the Communities in Bloom international competition, though a new grading system means the town now has a better idea of how to improve.
The town also nabbed the “golden goose” of Outstanding Achievement awards, the Outstanding Achievement Award for theCommunities in Bloom Foundation Youth Involvement, and an honourable mention in Pride, Partnerships and Promotion.
During judging earlier this year, judges Lorna McIlroy and Ted Zarudny warned Heartland Beautification Committee about the new grading system, and said some communities may see a drop in score — not because they had lagged behind, but because the way judges grade communities was also changing along with the system.
Previously, communities rated a five-bloom score when they reached a score of 820 out of 1,000. However, once communities regularly reached that five-bloom score, it was hard to see how they compared to other communities and how much room there was for improvement, said Rob Spencer, chair of the Heartland Beautification Committee.
Spencer said he was braced to see Stettler’s score drop when he attended the annual convention, this year held in Kamloops, B.C.
Instead, Stettler’s score soared by 20 points, a “significant” rise, Spencer said.
“It’s very easy to gain a point in one category and lose a point in another, and zero out,” Spencer said. As a community’s score inches higher and higher, there’s less chance of a community achieving a major point increase, instead inching along in point-by-point increments.
As a community’s percentage increases, so do the value of their blooms. First, a community achieves five blooms, and then those five blooms become bronze, then silver, and finally gold.
Only a couple of communities achieved the 90 per cent required to rate the coveted five gold blooms, including a community from Turkey, which sent a large contingent to the conference, Spencer noted.
This year, a series of projects helped the community rise in points. The ever-expanding community garden project, the new outdoor classroom space at the Stettler Schools Complex, and the skate park were but some of the major projects that helped boost Stettler’s standing this year.
It was the project behind the school that helped Stettler bring home the Youth Involvement award, one which every community longs to collect, Spencer said.
“We’re all sort of grey hairs here,” he said of the Communities in Bloom volunteers. “Youth involvement is the golden goose.”
Both judges had previously judged the community in the past, a fact that is a double-edged sword, Spencer explained.
“They can see how far we’ve come since they were last here,” he said. “At the same time, they also know if we’re trying to present an old project in a new way.”
Ontario’s Zarudny hadn’t been to Stettler since before the town office was built on the corner of 50 Street and Highway 56. McIlroy’s come about every three years, Spencer said.
Conference like a family reunion
Heading to the conference every year is like a giant family reunion, Spencer said. After a few years on the Communities inBloom circuit, he’s had a chance to get to know people and the communities they represent.
“I had a guy from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, come up to me and say ‘I come here to steal people’s ideas, and I hope they steal mine,’” Spencer recalled. “We trade ideas and look at what other communities are doing, and say ‘We can do that,’ or may be it’s something we can change a bit and do.”
The conference runs over three days, and includes a symposium and awards banquet.
“You learn so much from each other,” Spencer said. “Little things, big things, and massive things you can try.”