Bloom judges arrive

BELPRE – A pair of judges from the America in Bloom national awards program are in the process of visiting various sites throughout Belpre as part of the judging of the Belpre in Bloom program.

Sue Amatangelo and Susie Stratton, judges for America in Bloom, began their judging Monday and will conclude their visit today.

During the judging process, they are visiting a number of sites in Belpre, including areas where Belpre in Bloom has worked to plant decorative flowers, install signage and make other improvements over the last three years.

The judges attended a luncheon Monday at the Belpre Senior Center where they met a number of volunteers and other participants in the Belpre in Bloom beautification program.

Belpre is one of 33 towns across America working on local revitalization programs with the hopes of receiving an America in Bloom national award. In the 4,500-10,000 population category, Belpre is competing against Brewton, Ala., Greendale, Ind., Catskill, N.Y., and Estes Park, Colo.

“The benefits of being a part of America in Bloom are endless and countless,” Amatangelo said Monday, adding those benefits are also cumulative. “You start to see changes happening, you start to see a difference in your community,” she said.

She has enjoyed talking with volunteers and participants, especially those who have been with Belpre in Bloom from the early stages.

“When our tour guides tell us about where you were three years ago and where you are today, it’s an amazing transformation. I know that year after year, you’re going to see that happen,” Amatangelo told the volunteers attending Monday’s luncheon.

Stratton said the impact of the Belpre in Bloom program will also be felt outside the city’s boundaries.

“What you’re doing here will have a long-lasting and a ripple effect that will go out to so many other communities,” she said.

Both judges praised the effort and dedication of Leslie Pittenger, the city’s auditor and chairman of the Belpre in Bloom program since its inception.

“It takes somebody like Leslie, also, who has the commitment, the drive and dedication to follow through,” Stratton said.

Amatangelo said the judges are considering categories as they review Belpre and its programs: floral displays, urban forestry, landscaped areas, community involvement, overall impressions, historic and heritage preservation and environmental efforts.

“I think the biggest thing is that we don’t just want to come and judge,” Stratton said. “We try to leave suggestions for the community when we are leaving. We can see as outsiders other things that could be done to help enhance what you are already doing.”

America in Bloom will hold its annual symposium Oct. 2 and 3 in Philadelphia when the award winners from around the country will be announced, Amatangelo said. At that time, the results of their visit to Belpre will also be released, she said.