DeKALB – DeKalb County Community Gardens director Dan Kenney has lived in DeKalb for almost 40 years but learned more about local programs through the America in Bloom judges tour.
Two judges from this national program visited DeKalb for two days in August, which pushed local government and community leaders to showcase landscaping, environmental efforts and heritage preservation throughout DeKalb.
“It helped me see DeKalb through fresh eyes,” Kenney said. “I was really impressed when I saw all the initiatives we have going on that America in Bloom looks for.”
America in Bloom leaders announced this weekend that DeKalb earned a rating of three out of five. The other cities in the population category of 35,001 to 50,000 that received higher ratings: Holland, Mich., scored a five while Huntington, W.Va., and Winter Garden, Fla., both received fours.
Local leaders are eager to review the judge’s scorecards, which could provide feedback on everything from public plantings to community involvement, Mayor John Rey said. He said local leaders will strongly consider participating again. The $1,099 entry fee was paid from DeKalb’s general fund.
“This is the first year DeKalb has participated in the program,” Rey said. “I would say I’m accepting of their rating. I realize the criteria they use for the rating is more than just flower displays. It’s looking at collaboration across the community.”
The judges complimented the Ellwood House Museum, 509 N. First St., as well as the Egyptian Theatre, 135 N. Second St., and the community garden program.
In its second year, the community garden program has more than 200 raised beds across 37 sites throughout the county, but the judges visited gardens by DeKalb City Hall, the Adult Day Care on South Fourth Street, and Founders Elementary School, Kenney said.
They also drove past Huntley Middle School, where the Barb Food Mart distributes produce from the community gardens to DeKalb School District 428 families in need.
The judges also complimented the 50 planters downtown and on Northern Illinois University designed by Proven Winners company, whose representatives were active on the committee coordinating DeKalb’s entry into the America in Bloom program.
“The Proven Winners company designs the planters using good arrangement, color, texture and balance,” the judges said in a news release. “The containers are beautifully maintained by a part-time employee. This project is symbolic of the positive changes that take place when the business community works with the city and the university.”