Could there be a better time to brighten up your town or hamlet with floral displays, some landscaping, and a bit of tidying up?
Organizers of Communities in Bloom say now is the perfect time — and not just because everyone could use a lift during these gloomy times.
“The program is ripe for this because people need to get out in the dirt right now,” said Karen Snethun, provincial co-ordinator with Communities in Bloom Alberta. “They need that stress relief.”
Like its counterparts in the rest of the country, the Alberta chapter has scrapped the competition part of the program — having teams of volunteer judges travelling from town to town doesn’t work during a pandemic.
But the flip side of the COVID-19 coin means people will be spending more time in their home communities. That prompted organizers to come up with a new theme for this year: ‘Bloom where you are planted.’
But while they won’t be handing out provincial and national awards this year — which means no chance to win the coveted ‘5 Bloom’ honours — there will be other ways for communities to show what they have. The provincial organization will host an online gallery and is encouraging folks to conduct virtual tours via video.
“We will also provide people with different types of contests that they will do and different types of educational opportunities,” said Snethun.
Some communities will also need volunteers because the pandemic has impacted their budget.
“We are finding that some of the municipalities are hard hit and have had to lay off their parks and rec staff, so maintaining green space will be challenging for these municipalities,” said Snethun.
But the central purpose of Communities in Bloom — beautification projects that benefit all — hasn’t changed.
“We’re hoping citizens will help out and maintain gardens and plant flowers,” she said.
Although some will take a break this year because of a lack of volunteers, many of the communities that were involved last year are ready and eager.
“Some communities want to do it because it is easy, and a way to keep the momentum going in the community,” said Snethun. “One community member said, ‘We choose to live in our community. It’s really interesting that we have to bloom where we are planted, and look at how we can give back to our community at this time.’”
That’s the case for Provost — which won provincial honours last year and three times previously.
The flowers they will put in the barrels that adorn Main Street were ordered last fall, said Agnes Whiting, the group’s secretary/treasurer.
The Grade 10 class from the high school usually helps with the planting, but with students not physically getting together at this time, the core group of eight volunteers will get it done — hopefully with some extra hands on board.
“It’ll be a little different from what we normally do,” said Whiting. “It looks like we’ll be doing most of the planting ourselves, through our group and our volunteers.”
The pots are far enough apart so social distancing won’t be a problem when the planting takes place.
“We’ll get them planted and hopefully people will look at it and appreciate the beauty in the world,” she said. “It’s really important to beautify the community.”
Each year, the group undertakes a little project and shows it to the judges. Even though there is no judging this year, the group is still forging ahead with a planned project.
“This year, we’ll be developing a little park on Main Street,” said Whiting. “It’s a site that had a park bench and that’s about all. There was a tiny little flower bed. We’re going to revamp that.”
Eventually, the group would like to put in a picnic table or a gazebo, and a mural. Other groups have become involved in beautifying the town. A separate community group started a community garden and fruit orchard last year, which impressed the Community in Bloom judges. The girl guides have also done their part, by creating a garden that attracts butterflies.
The town of Provost and Communities in Bloom will work together on the park.
Whiting said the staff has been very supportive of the group and their efforts, especially this year.
“People see how our town has improved because of this program,” she said. “Volunteers who aren’t even on the Communities in Bloom group go out and weed the barrels and deadhead some. Some volunteers want to be able to come and help out where they can.”
That goes for the group as a whole, too. In the past, it’s worked with civic officials on projects such as a tree inventory of the town.
“We’re really fortunate to be able to progress and be able to find things we can do that would be a benefit to our community,” said Whiting.