mansfield in bloom judges 2018

America in Bloom judges Teresa Woodard and Laurie Waller mingle with Mansfield in Bloom representatives Friday, July 28 at the Cleveland Financial Group's office.

MANSFIELD – America in Bloom judges were impressed with Mansfield.

After spending two full-days studying the city’s beatification efforts, Teresa Woodard of Columbus and Laurie Waller of Arroyo Grande, California shared positive reactions.

“We think the floral displays are outstanding here,” Woodard said. “You all go over the top on your containers, especially the displays at the Carousel, and we just oohed and ahhed over Kingwood.”

Though Woodard lives and works only an hour from Mansfield, she hadn’t previously spent much time in the city. She recalled visiting the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and how her children have visited the Ohio State Reformatory near Halloween.

But she now intends to return with her husband to revisit the Kingwood Center Gardens and the Reformatory, which was their first stop Wednesday evening.

“It was the very first thing we did on the first night, so it really set the tone for the value you all place on your historic structures,” Woodard said about the Reformatory. “It maybe started off with just one of your biggest gems, but also was a great way to preview the rich history you have here in Mansfield.”

Fellow judge, Waller was most impressed by how the Mansfield in Bloom program had looped in many different organizations and individuals.  

“In America in Bloom, we look at things as a three-legged stool. We have the municipality, businesses and the citizenry,” Waller said. “And what I noticed is that you have all those people … It’s really remarkable. Well done.”

She and Woodard both noted the long list of individuals and organizations, who were recognized Thursday evening with a dinner at Kingwood.

“It was amazing the support you have,” Woodard said.

Later, Mansfield’s beatification efforts will be rated based on at least six criteria, including floral displays, landscaped areas, urban forestry, environmental efforts, heritage preservation and overall impression.

The score is then assigned a “bloom-rating,” between one and five blooms. It will be announced in October at the annual Symposium in Lexington, Kentucky, where Mansfield will compete against places like Saratoga, California, Henderson County, North Carolina, and St. Charles, Illinois.

“They were all five bloom cities last year, and they’ve been in the program for a while, so it’s some tough competition in your category,” Woodard said.

Mansfield received a three-bloom rating last year with a score just short of a four-bloom. The city also received an outstanding achievement award for its landscaped areas and more special recognition for the community’s heritage preservation efforts.

Mansfield in Bloom committee chair, Doug Versaw hopes for a five-bloom this year.  

To reach his goal, Versaw organized a steering committee with leaders from the city and community.

“In fact, in our profile for this year, we put that in as our best idea, creating that steering committee and addressing what some of the concerns were from the judges last year,” Versaw said.

The group arranged for 40 hanging baskets to be placed in downtown Mansfield, for most of the city’s 11 entryway signs to be landscaped and more.

Landscaping around one entryway sign, located on a steep hill, caused some trouble and couldn’t be landscaped in time for the America in Bloom judges, but the others were complete and even sponsored by an individual or organization that will continually maintain the entryway.

He also pointed out the freshly painted “Welcome to Mansfield” sign on the silos at Centerra Co-op along North Main Street. Mansfield City Council approved appropriating $22,000 to be used for repainting earlier this year.

The money for other projects was donated largely by organizations or individuals. Lodging for the judges was donated by the Holiday Inn Hotel, and meals were provided by a variety of businesses and organizations in the community.

“We’ve done so much with a little amount of money, which is something we’re excited about,” Versaw said. “This whole movement of beautification and pride in our community is growing and we want to continue that.”

The judges ended their trip at the Final Friday concert in the Brickyard and departed Saturday.  

Woodard writes and produces garden and lifestyle stories for national and regional magazines. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism and worked seven years for a Columbus-based public relations firm before switching to freelance writing in 2007.

In 2016, Woodard’s work won a Gold Award in magazine writing from The Association of Garden Communicators.  

She is a master gardener volunteer for The Ohio State University Extension, editor of the Master Gardener Training Manual and winner of the 2015 Ohio Outstanding Gardener Award.

Waller is a retired teacher. She is the floral displays chairperson for the Arroyo Grand in Bloom program, a role she first took in 2009. Under her guidance, the city’s program was recognized with top America in Bloom honors.

Waller has completed the University of California Master Gardener program.

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