Statement issued Monday:
Judges from the America in Bloom competition will visit Shipshewana, IN on July 20. As a veteran entrant in the 1,000-4,000 population category, Shipshewana is one of 22 towns across America that this year is working on local revitalization programs with the hopes of being named the best blooming town in America.
Judges are Darlene Blake and Linda Cromer.
Darlene Blake is a life-long gardener, community activist, internationally recognized public speaker and world traveler. She is past president of the Des Moines Garden Club and a Master Gardener. When not communing with nature, she is a career transition consultant with more than 20 years professional speaking experience and has served on many boards and commissions. Darlene is the managing consultant in Des Moines for Drake, Beam, Morin, Inc. – the world’s leader in career transition services. Darlene has a master’s degree in education from Mankato State University and leads her own diversified corporation. She holds a U.S. Patent and is in Who’s Who of American Women, Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in the World..
Linda Cromer has served her community, Greendale, IN, in a variety of political positions, including planning commissioner chairperson of the park board and tree board and housing authority commissioner. She sits on the executive boards and plays an active role in the efforts of several national and state nonprofit organizations dedicated to social justice and environmental issues. Linda, who received a fine arts education at the University of Kansas, learned to love gardening at her grandmother’s knee. Owner and operator of a floral shop and greenhouse for more than a decade, she has spent the bulk of her professional life traveling as an international representative for a labor organization and has used those travel opportunities to audit design and horticulture classes at a number of universities and to study the diversity and individuality of public gardens and the communities where they are located.
“Pride and passion are two words that best describe the spirit of America in Bloom communities,” Cromer said. “Your town has something really special, and it’s to your credit that you want to share its unique character with the AIB judges and the other participants. We are so looking forward to our visit.”
In response to hearing many good things about Shipshewana, Blake said, “Shipshewana is a well-known star of small town charm that I have wanted to visit for many years. I couldn’t be more delighted to have the opportunity to experience for myself the friendly people, bountiful beauty and unique community spirit of Shipshewana.”
Judges spend two days in each town and do extensive touring, have interviews with municipal representatives, and meetings with community volunteers. They evaluate eight criteria: community involvement, tidiness, environmental efforts, heritage preservation, urban forestry, landscapes, floral displays, turf and groundcovers. These criteria are examined across three sectors: commercial, municipal, and residential. Judges will prepare an extensive written evaluation offering observations of
exceptional practices and suggestions for improvements. It is given to the community after awards are announced in October. Many towns use these evaluations as a blueprint for further enhancements to their quality of life and to support grant applications.
To date, nearly 200 towns and cities from 38 states have participated in the program and more than 20 million people have been touched by it. Awards will be announced on October 8, 2011 at AIB’s National Symposium and Awards, held this year in Washington, DC.