Left Photo: (Right) Santa Paula City Councilman Jim Tovias talks to the American In Bloom judges (left) Ed Hooker, (Center) Linda Cromer during the thank you BBQ at the Wilson Ranch last week Right Photo: Associates Insectary was part of the tour for the America In Bloom judges last week. The judges learned about the Beneficial Insects. Alove left to right are: Bill Grant (Associates Insectary) Dudley Davis (Do Rights) Judge Ed Hooker, Judge Linda Cromer

America in Bloom: Judges find SP’s
most fragrant flower is community

May 14, 2014
Santa Paula News

Community is perhaps Santa Paula’s most fragrant flower as demonstrated at a special barbecue capping the visit of America in Bloom judges who were given a whirlwind tour of the city.

The local chapter of America in Bloom has entered the city in a national competition where the city is up against Winter Park, FL, Henderson County, NC and Holland, MI in the 24,001 to 50,000-population category for judging.

Friday’s dinner was held at Chris and Yvonne Wilson’s ranch, AKA Familia Wilson Casa Trulli, a circular stone house much like those that dot the Apulia region nestled in the heel of Italy’s boot. The only Trulli house in Ventura County, it was built by Chris’ late grandfather Roy Wilson Sr. Wilson, the county’s first licensed architect.

Judge Linda Cromer of Glendale, Indiana said she felt “We drew a lucky straw,” to be able to visit Santa Paula for judging, a sentiment shared by co-judge Ed Hooker III, the first Historical Architect of the National Cemetery Administration/Veterans Affairs in Washington, DC. 

It was time to relax for Santa Paula’s America in Bloom directors and volunteers who had been preparing for the judges’ visit for months. Cromer and Hooker were taken on tours of the city and its attractions, learned of its history and culture, met with various organizations and individuals for what in essence was a two-day-plus whirlwind tour.

Dianne and Dudley Davis, founders of the local America in Bloom chapter in 2010, often accompanied them. As owners of Do Right’s Plant Nursery the Davis’ had already started beautifying the historic Downtown by donating hanging baskets and planters as well as the maintenance required before founding AIB.

At Friday’s barbecue Cromer said Santa Paula was the second city of the four being visited for competition evaluations.

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

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.

Although noncommittal, neither Cromer nor Hooker could hide their enthusiasm for AIB and Santa Paula.

“The sense of community in Santa Paula is outstanding,” said Cromer. “We didn’t make a bad stop,” on the tours lined up by Dianne Davis, who also provided “An itinerary of interesting and beautiful places with excellent guides.”

AIB Board Director Gary Nasalroad agreed noting, “It was a wonderful two days with our judges and I think they gained an appreciation of our city.”

During her remarks to the gathering Cromer said Santa Paula “is a wonderful community” that she is pleased joined the AIB movement, originally modeled on Canadian and European programs. 

America in Bloom has an all-compassing holistic approach to community betterment through “Competing with yourselves to be the best you can be... “  

And that includes overcoming challenges such as the punishing California drought: “We’re looking at how you’re handling the hand you were dealt,” said Cromer.

Hooker said awards would be revealed during the October AIB National Symposium in Philadelphia.

“Please join us,” said Cromer. “I’ll show you a good time!”

Nasalroad thanked the Davis’ for the “vision of the community they want to live in... “

“I just do what I’m told,” joked Dudley Davis.

Hooker later said he was impressed with not only the number of Santa Paula based museums but also with the quality of the exhibits.

And, considering his studies and past career as a historic architect and preservationist, Hooker said he also enjoyed the restorations and cultural heritage significance of the Depot and The Mill,  now the Agriculture Museum of Ventura County “Both were very well done,” said Hooker, who also commented on the notable “outpouring of community support” demonstrated by Santa Paulans for AIB and other programs.

Cromer and Hooker each said they have a benchmark for communities they visit and between its sense of community, famed weather and passion for the America in Bloom program the judges agreed they could indeed see themselves living in Santa Paula.

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