Judging for national AIB competition this week

May 07, 2014
Santa Paula News

What do Winter Park, FL, Henderson County, NC and Holland, MI have in common with Santa Paula?

They’re all in the 24,001 to 50,000-population category of the 2014 America in Bloom national competition that this week will send two distinguished judges to Santa Paula.

The local chapter of America in Bloom has been preparing for the judges’ visit for months, lining up tours, contacts and most importantly beautification including a last polishing held citywide Saturday that included sprucing up and landscaping by more than 70 volunteers.

“We’re as ready as we can be,” said Dianne Davis, who with her husband Dudley founded the local America in Bloom chapter in 2010.

The couple, owners of Do Right’s Plant Nursery, had already started beautifying the historic Downtown by donating hanging baskets and planters as well as the maintenance required.

Since AIB was founded it has expanded the Downtown program to other areas as well as landscaped and improved city gateways, parks, schools and Blanchard Community Library. 

The organization is working with the city on the grant-funded improvement of 10th Street and oversees the Bike Trail volunteer program.

Davis said AIB National Competition Judges Linda Cromer and Ed Hooker III are arriving in Santa Paula Wednesday for a whirlwind visit with stops throughout Santa Paula and meet and greets with various groups and individuals.

Cromer has served her community, Greendale, Indiana, as Planning Commissioner, Chairperson of the Park Board and Tree Board, and Housing Authority Commissioner, among others. She sits on the Executive Boards and plays an active role in the efforts of several national and state non-profit organizations dedicated to social justice and environmental issues.

Cromer, who received a fine arts education at the University of Kansas and learned to love gardening at her grandmother’s knee, for more than a decade has been the owner/ operator of a floral shop and greenhouse but spent the bulk of her professional life traveling as an international representative for a labor organization.

She used the 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.

Past president and active member of the local Garden Club, Cromer spearheaded her community’s first participation in the America in Bloom Program in 2005.

Hooker currently serves as the first Historical Architect of the National Cemetery Administration, Veterans Affairs in Washington, DC, which oversees 131 cemeteries throughout the United States and Puerto Rico.

He began his federal service career in 2006 as the Historic Architect and Cultural Resources Manager at Fort Riley, KS. After graduating from Auburn University with a degree in architecture, Hooker began his career in historic preservation with the Alabama Historical Commission, the Alabama State Historic Preservation Office, where he worked with communities to realize the potential of their threatened historic landmarks. 

Hooker later was the historic architect for the Mobile Historic Development Commission, where he staffed the city’s Architectural Review Board and provided preservation guidance and architectural design assistance to residents of Mobile’s 8 historic districts. 

He credits his passion for historic preservation to growing up in the Black Belt region of Alabama, volunteering as a docent for his community’s annual pilgrimage, and being made aware at an early age the importance of heritage and history.  

An avid amateur gardener that enjoys container and patio gardening, Hooker also served for two years on his town’s AIB Committee.

Cromer and Hooker will evaluate Santa Paula for overall impression, heritage preservation, environmental efforts, urban forestry, landscapes, floral displays and community involvement in the residential, commercial, and municipal sectors.

Said Davis, “We’re very excited to be part of the contest and through all the participation and support believe Santa Paula has come to a point that we feel good enough to win.”

It truly has been a community effort from volunteers “Coming together” to beautify the city and the Santa Paula Downtown Merchants Association funding flowers for businesses to residents just being aware of the competition and sprucing up their landscaping.

Bloom rating, outstanding achievement award, special mention for what the judges deem to be an extraordinary project or program, Community Champion and the YouTube video award are among the recognitions participating cities can receive outside the main population category winnings.

But no matter what the official accolades the real winner will be Santa Paula: “It’s been amazing,” Davis said of the support and enthusiasm that “just proves that our residents care deeply about our town... “

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