AlliedNews.com - Grove City, Pennsylvania

Local News

July 3, 2014

The Rock blooms under judges' eyes

SLIPPERY ROCK — America in Bloom judges Katy Moss Warner and Barbara Vincentsen liked what they saw in the Slippery Rock area, where they spent three days evaluating a year's worth of work done by Slippery Rock in Bloom members and volunteers.

"You're doing really, really well," Vincentsen told a crowd during a lunch meeting Monday afternoon at North Country Brewing Co., Slippery Rock.

Monday's regular meeting of the Slippery Rock Rotary Club was taken over -- in a good way -- for members of SRIB, the Slippery Rock Lions Club, community leaders and volunteers to come together to celebrate their dedication to beautifying the area, and also to hear from the judges, who arrived Sunday and leave this morning.

"It's about overall impression," Moss Warner said, noting that AIB is more than a national contest.

"It's the jewelry of your town. It's the flowers," she said.

Warner has judged 40 towns for AIB and Vincentsen, 12.

"She opens my eyes to things I don't see," Moss Warner said.

So far they've noticed that Slippery Rock uses flowers to bring the community together in ways that they've never seen, and they've been hearing a lot about the thousands of tulips that bloom in the spring.

"I guess we're gonna have to come back to see your tulips," she said.

SRIB, which has entered the contest for the third year in a row, has presented unique ideas that can be applied to other towns because they have a special energy, inspiration and enthusiasm, Moss Warner said.

Towns like Slippery Rock, where people work together and can put things like politics aside, can lead by example.

"This is a gift that we get as judges," she said of being able to visit places like Slippery Rock.

The town has shown optimism, hope and can-do to make the community shine, and the judges have already seen "so many amazing things here," Moss Warner said.

The AIB National Symposium and Awards is set for Oct. 4 in Philadelphia, where the winners will be announced, and 33 towns from 21 states entered this year's contest.

There are numerous awards, including the community involvement award, which Moss Warner said is very important, and special awards for things like "best hanging basket system" or "best volunteer recognition program."

There's also a YouTube video award with a $1,500 prize and a community champion award, and she encourages SRIB to nominate someone.

Vincentsen later told the group they've made the town captivating, and people are captivated. Projects like fairy gardens and "Weeding Wednesday" are a great touch.

She suggested they look for ways to get more youth involved in volunteering with SRIB. Members should offer more personal touches, like phone calls, to recruit new volunteers, Moss Warner said

"Reach out to some people and ask if they can be part of your videos," Vincentsen said.

You can have the most beautiful flowers, but that doesn't mean much without community involvement, Vincentsen said.

"But you've got something special going," Moss Warner said. "Rotary certainly understands service."

Slippery Rock business owner Sonya Lenz, who grew up in town, said her childhood memories of the borough are very different compared to how things look now; it wasn't as pretty back then, and she sees more people taking more pride in Slippery Rock, from the business community to residents and students.

"It does look pretty spectacular," Vincentsen said.

The general public has come to realize this whole venture goes beyond the basics and they know it's worthwhile, and it shows, said Judy Hughes, SRIB and Rotary member.

"We care," said Hughes, who is also an assistant governor with Rotary who has presented the AIB program to area Rotary clubs; Zelienople is very interested in starting their own Bloom group, she said.

During the judges' three-day visit, their tour of the area included Slippery Rock University, numerous parks, the Old Stone House, non-profit organizations, residents' yards, historical sites, businesses and more.

They were even surprised with a flash mob Monday morning at Gateway Park, where a group danced to "Happy," the catchy song by Pharrell Williams.

Everything wrapped up Tuesday night at the Slippery Rock Fire Hall with a thank-you picnic for volunteers and community members who have helped SRIB over the past year.

SRIB, which was established in 2010 by the Slippery Rock Rotary Club, has yet to take home any top awards, but they were honored by AIB in 2012 with a plaque for historical preservation, and in 2013, local photographer Karen Kriley received an award for her picture of the flowering trees on Main Street.

For this year's contest, Slippery Rock is competing against Lewisburg, W.Va.; Gallipolis, Ohio, and the University of Findlay, Ohio, in the 3,500 to 4,500 population category.

AIB promotes revitalization and beautification through education and community involvement by encouraging the use of flowers, plants, trees and other environmental and lifestyle enhancements.

Contest participants are evaluated in these areas: overall impression; heritage preservation; environmental efforts; urban forestry; landscapes; floral displays; and community involvement. The judges evaluate the criteria in residential, commercial and municipal sectors.

Award categories are: bloom rating; population category winner; outstanding achievement award; special mention; community champion; and YouTube video award. Population category winners are invited to participate in the international competition via the Communities in Bloom program in Canada.

For more information about Slippery Rock in Bloom, call Cindi Dillon at 724-406-0472. You can also find the group online at www.srinbloom.com or on Facebook.

Published June 25, 2014, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.

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