Prairies are blooming: preserving heritage, natural beauty

Any drive through the Prairies will reveal familiar signage, with some version of the sign, ”Proud to Be a Community in Bloom.”

CIB is a volunteer-based non-profit Canadian organization committed to fostering civic pride, environmental responsibility and beautification through community participation and the challenge of involvement in an internationally recognized Quality of Life program.

It is much more than a beauty contest. Bloom is defined as a state or time of high development or achievement. CIB helps a community bloom by helping preserve its natural and cultural heritage, exchanging ideas and enjoying cultural expression, increasing community property values, attracting tourists and enhancing the visual appeal of neighbourhoods and public spaces.

During July and August, my own yard suffers along with my community plots because I am away minding other people’s communities instead of my own.

However, this is a small price to pay for the privilege of being a provincial, national and international judge for CIB and the pleasure of seeing “People, Plants & Pride Growing Together” as the Prairies bloom each year.

Provincially, communities are grouped according to population for competitive judging. There is also the option of participating in the Friends (non-competitive) category, evaluated or non-evaluated.

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Winners from the provincial program are invited to join the national program, where they have several options, including an international challenge.

Every summer, volunteer judges evaluate municipalities on six key criteria: tidiness, environmental action, heritage conservation, urban forestry, landscape and floral displays.

The principle of community involvement is so fundamental to the program that it is evaluated within each criterion.

Communities are not judged against each other. They are judged against their potential or what they do with what they have.

After visiting a community, the two judges work together to evaluate the community on the above criteria by giving a numerical score that will translate into the number of blooms awarded. They will also choose a special mention and provide a comprehensive document for distribution at the fall awards that includes their observations and suggestions.

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In Manitoba, communities are invited to Come Fall in Love with Stonewall on Sept. 9-10 for its conference and awards ceremony.

The Alberta provincial awards will be held Sept. 17 in Cold Lake and the British Columbia awards are planned for Sept. 30 -Oct. 1 in Hope.

CIB and the Saskatchewan Parks and Recreation Association are hosting Healthy Communities: Harvesting the Benefits for the National Awards and Symposium in conjunction with its annual SPRA Conference Oct. 27-29 in Regina.

Lorna McIlroy is a retired educator and horticulturist in Grande Prairie, Alta. Contact: lmcilroy@producer.com

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