WADSWORTH — When Stephen Pategas and Laurie Wheeler descend upon a community, nothing escapes their critical eye.

Not the flowers. Not the outdoor furniture. Not the architecture. Not the signs. Not the curbs. Not even the dog waste receptacles.

Over the last two days, the America in Bloom judges — notebooks in hand to scribble down copious observations, smartphones ready to snap photos and wide-brim hats on for protection against the sun — have met with community leaders and toured everything from the downtown to the parks to the Wadsworth High School-YMCA-Wadsworth Community Television-Summa Health complex to evaluate the city on its vitality, flowers, landscaping and other amenities.

So far so good.

"We already know the community cares because they brought us here," Pategas said Friday.

The Wadsworth Bud and Bloom Garden Club, Main Street Wadsworth and city government collaborated to enter the America in Bloom competition this year. The Columbus-based beautification program involves bringing in outside, volunteer judges — Pategas is from Winter Park, Florida, and Waller is from Cedaredge, Colorado — to score the city based on numerous criteria, write up a report on what they find and decide if the community deserves a national award.

The Medina County city will find out the results in October when the nonprofit hosts its annual symposium and awards ceremony in St. Charles, Illinois. More than 40 communities nationwide are participating this year, including fellow Ohio cities Athens, Coshocton, Logan and Mansfield.

"It's a great opportunity for Wadsworth to get national exposure," said Adrianne Krauss, executive director of Main Street Wadsworth. "That's what this is about, telling the rest of the country what Wadsworth has to offer."

Longtime city residents Robin and Randy Kilbride paid the entry fee for the competition. Robin Kilbride is the president and CEO of Smithers-Oasis Co., a floral firm in Kent, and recommended that Wadsworth enter.

"We're the kind of community that should be doing this," Robin Kilbride said.

Community leaders are excited to see the final report, which will detail Wadsworth's strengths and weaknesses and provide suggestions for beautifying the city.

"We thought it was all about flowers, but it is so much more," said Pam Douglas, a garden club member who has spearheaded the effort with fellow member Kay Bowman.

The feedback that the city has received already has been positive. One of the criteria involves "community vitality."

"Right off the bat, they really knocked our socks off with what they are doing with community vitality," Pategas said. "Community vitality to America in Bloom is all about opportunities for health and well being and quality of life and that's happening and there's a great commitment to that already. The high school complex? You get a partnership like that over there? What does that tell you about a community? ... I think I'm going to retire here."

For more information about America in Bloom, go to www.americainbloom.org.

 

Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or rarmon@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @armonrickABJ.