MANSFIELD – Two America in Bloom judges will arrive in Mansfield Wednesday night and stay through Saturday morning.
While in town, Teresa Woodard of Columbus and Laurie Waller of Arroyo Grande, California will study and later rate the city’s beatification efforts based on six criteria: floral displays, landscaped areas, urban forestry, environmental efforts, heritage preservation and overall impression.
“The goal is a five-bloom rating,” said Doug Versaw, who leads the Mansfield in Bloom committee. “We were just short of a four-bloom last year, and five is the best … so we’re hoping to do that this year.”
Mansfield also received an outstanding achievement award for its landscaped areas and another special recognition for the community’s heritage preservation efforts.
To reach the goal of a five-bloom rating, Versaw has organized a steering committee with the scoring criteria in mind. He also made a point to loop in the city government and business 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 won’t be landscaped in time for the America in Bloom judges, but the others are complete and even sponsored for an individual or organization that will continually maintain the landscaping.
Versaw also intends to point 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 will be 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 will arrive in Mansfield Wednesday evening for a visit to the Ohio State Reformatory.
Thursday, they will take a walking and driving tour of downtown Mansfield, eat lunch at the Mind Body Align Butterfly House and later visit Kingwood Garden Center for dinner and a Live on the Lawn concert.
Friday features visits to the Mechanics Bank courtyard, Mansfield’s branch of The Ohio State University and the Richland County Fairgrounds. Woodard and Waller will end with a Final Friday concert at the Brickyard.
“Knowing that they judge Monday and Tuesday, travel Wednesday and then judge Thursday and Friday, we asked if we could have the judges on the 26th and 27the for the final Friday concert. And we got them to come,” Versaw said.
Woodard writes and produces garden and lifestyle stories for national and regional magazines. She earned her 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 has spent time as 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.
She has since stepped down from that role, but continues to serve as a board member for Arroyo Grand in Bloom.
Waller has completed the University of California Master Gardener program.