October 11, 2010

Get involved in the America in Bloom process, London!

Letter to the editor

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — To the editor:

I recently attended the American in Bloom Symposium and Awards Dinner in St. Louis. Though I live in Missouri, I was there because my hometown — Charles City, Iowa — was one of the entrants in the 2010 contest.

London, Ky., was also a contender, in the same population class as Charles City (4,001-10,000).

Before learning about AIB at their event, I assumed, incorrectly, that America in Bloom was little more than a group of nice, civic leaders who went out of their way to plant some flowers in an effort to beautify their communities.

The event — a classy, professional and well-organized affair attended by 200 individuals from all over the country — convinced me the organization is about much more than colorful bouquets.

 Yes, AIB judges floral displays and other growing things, including landscaped areas, turf and ground covers, and urban forests. But they also look at important elements such as community involvement, environmental awareness, heritage preservation and tidiness. …

Of the 26 communities entered in this year’s competition, there were seven winners — and I’m proud to say that Charles City was one of them.

It’s notable, though, that there were no losers. Each community’s presentation made it clear that every single city that entered is a great place to live and work.

London’s representative proved that point.

Though London didn’t win, Chris Robinson, who spearheads your Main Street program, added a touch of class to the event when he made it a point to graciously compliment Charles City in his remarks to the audience. In fact, Mr. Robinson noted that he hopes to visit Charles City next spring to gather some ideas for London.

What a great testament to the spirit of friendly competition promoted by AIB!

I’ve not visited London since the 1970s. Back then, I lived in Louisville, headed sales for the Paramount pickle company, and traveled to your area several times, calling on supermarkets and grocery wholesalers.

Chris Robinson encouraged me to come back again, and I’ll hope to do so, next spring, when London is ready for the 2011 AIB judging.

No, I don’t want London to beat Charles City in next year’s contest! But since competition always serves to make every participant better, I’d like to offer the following suggestions to encourage anyone in London who may want to become involved in this important event:

(1) RESEARCH. Go to and learn about the AIB organization and the ideas they provide.

(2) LEARN. Call Chris Robinson at his office (606-862-8841) to find out how you can help.

(3) CONTRIBUTE. Beyond the AIB entry fee that must be paid, there are operating expenses that need to be covered. Donations of any size are critical to continued success.

(4) VOLUNTEER. Participants of all ages are needed, from watering flower containers and planting some bushes and trees, to helping prepare for judges’ visits and encouraging and organizing additional volunteers.

Those are the things other cities will also be doing to rate high scores from AIB, and if London comes through like Chris Robinson says it can, the 2011 AIB trophy just might be yours.

Good luck, London!

Bill Burge

Ballwin, Mo.