Chet Greason, email@example.com
Despite some setbacks including a train delay and a flat tire on an airplane, two judges from the Communities in Bloom toured Stratford on July 19-21, and reported good things about the Festival City.
Judges Jim Baird, from Rothesay, New Brunswick, and Gerry Lajeunesse, from Ottawa, arrived in Toronto but experienced delays due to a train derailment in Bowmanville, near Oshawa. Members of Stratford’s Communities in Bloom committee were able to meet the judges in Toronto and packed a locally sourced lunch, which they enjoyed with Baird and Lajeunesse on the train ride back to Stratford.
Once here, the judges toured the Stratford Perth Archives and museum, Shakespearean Gardens, Upper Queen’s Park, Gallery Stratford, TJ Dolan Natural area, the SERC site, the Stratford Agriplex, the Local Community Food Centre, councillor Martin Ritsma’s farm, and even the landfill, so they could see the steps Stratford takes in order to be environmentally friendly.
Environmental action is one of six categories Baird and Lajeunesse are evaluating Stratford in during their inspection. The others are tidiness, heritage conservation, landscape, floral displays, and urban forestry.
It was to give the judges a clear view of Stratford’s abundant tree canopy, for the urban forestry category, that a plane ride was arranged. However, when it came time to take to the sky, the plane was found to have a flat tire.
Manager of parks and forestry, Quin Malott, was one of those set to accompany the judges up into the air. He downplayed the delay, saying it only added about half an hour to the day’s busy schedule.
“(The pilot) was very accommodating,” said Malott. “He kept things light, told jokes… It was actually pretty fun.”
This year, Stratford is included in the Circle of Excellence (evaluated) category, an exclusive division for past national winners. This is a non-competitive category where participating communities will nonetheless receive a rating based upon the judges’ evaluation. Within the circle, Stratford joins other past winners such as Calgary, Edmonton, Goderich, and St. John’s, Newfoundland.
The final results will be announced at a ceremony held from Sept. 20 to Oct. 3 in Kamloops, BC.
Stratford last won the Grand Champion category in 2013. The city also won the Class of Champions in 2011, and the Best Blooming Community in Canada in 2008.
A lunch, hosted by the Stratford Lakeside Active Adults Association (SLAAA), was held at the Kiwanis Centre on July 20 for the judges, committee members, and various community partners. There, Mayor Dan
Mathieson said the city’s involvement in Communities in Bloom was a source of great civic pride.
“It’s more than just flowers,” he said, noting the criteria called for excellence in such areas as parkland, trails, and the involvement of a city’s citizenry. “What makes Stratford different is the community, the people, and how we choose to live our lives.”
As for the judges, Lajeunesse had high praise for Mathieson, saying, “I’ve never heard a mayor reflect so well what Communities in Bloom is about.”
Baird, who was raised in nearby Wilmot Township, said the region still feels familiar to him despite not having lived here for 40 years.
“I said to Gerry, ‘We should retire here,’” he said of Stratford. “Then I saw all the activities here (enjoyed by members of SLAAA), and I said, ‘We should definitely retire here!’”