The last time Communities in Bloom judge Ted Zarudny was in Ashcroft was 2013, the year the community won a national CiB title. Three years later, he is greatly impressed by the improvements he has seen in the town since then. “I’ve seen the progression through the years, the changes, and the community involvement.”
More than 100 community members were on hand in the Heritage Park on the evening of July 18 to welcome Zarudny and fellow judge Larry Hall to town. The Ashcroft CiB committee had arranged a 10th anniversary celebration with cake and beverages, but not before presenting awards to 10 local residents in the Scott’s “Best Garden Selection” program.
A cake provided for the event shows the three subjects of the new mosaics: day lilies (top l), the CiB logo (c), and prickly pear cactus (top r). Photo by Barbara Roden.
There was also the unveiling of two new mosaic artwork pieces in the park: one an homage to Group of Seven artist A.Y. Jackson, who painted Ashcroft during a visit in 1945, the other a triple mosaic commissioned by the CiB committee that features the CiB logo, day lilies (the official flower of Ashcroft), and prickly pear cactus in bloom.
The new glass mosaic depicting prickly pear cactus in bloom. Photo by Barbara Roden.
The mosaics were all designed by local glass artist Marina Papais, whose stunning work throughout the town is quickly becoming popular with residents and visitors. She was responsible for the Jackson mosaic, while Ashcroft CiB chair Andrea Walker and member Patricia Denis created the three CiB mosaics with assistance from Papais. Daniel Collett designed the mosaic structures, which were built by Bruce Walker.
Andrea Walker says the judges were impressed by what they saw in the park. “They said there was so much community spirit there. They were really impressed.”
On July 19 Zarudny and Hall were taken on a tour of Ashcroft that started at 9 a.m. and lasted until late afternoon, after which they had dinner with CiB committee members and guests before touring the Ashcroft HUB.
Walker says both men asked a lot of questions, and were able to speak with various people around town during the course of their tour. They also met with David Porter at Desert Hills Ranch and spent a quarter of an hour talking with him and finding out more about the ranch and its operations.
The tour was a comprehensive one, says Walker. “We saw all the different levels: municipal, business, and residential, as well as all the parks, and the Chinese cemetery.”
The judges had a walk through the museum, and judged the flower barrels in front of the village office. Each barrel was planted by a member of village council and staff, in partnership with a CiB member, and each one is different: one features edible plants, another has cactus, and others have a wide mix of flowers.
“The judges were impressed by how diverse they were, and said they were all so good they didn’t want to pick a winner,” says Walker. However, they did give honourable mention to “Expressions in Colour”, which was created by Ashcroft chief administrative officer Michelle Allen and CiB member Ina Gory.
The “Expressions in Colour” barrel outside the village office, which won an honourable mention from the judges. Photo by Barbara Roden.
The judges were also able to see the newly installed provincial signage on Highway 1, which points the way to Ashcroft and features the CiB logo. “It’s the first such signage in Canada on a provincial or national highway,” says Walker, who sent a picture of the signage to Raymond Carriere, the national president of Communities in Bloom.
“He was very interested, and has asked for more information about how we got the signage, as he knows he will be getting questions about it from other CiB communities across the country.”
Ashcroft, as a former national winner, now competes in the “Class of Champions” category. Hall says that while the criteria for judging is the same no matter what category a community is in, the judges expect higher standards at the national and class of champions levels.
“It was a long day, but we covered a lot of ground,” says Walker of the judges’ tour. Although there were occasional sprinkles of rain, she says it was never bad enough to make them seek shelter. “It never got so wet that Ted couldn’t write,” she laughs.
Participating communities will find out how they fared at the 2016 CiB symposium and awards ceremonies, which take place in Regina from October 27 to 29.