Volunteers spruce up city for judges
HUNTINGTON -- With judges expected to arrive in Huntington on Wednesday evening, volunteers got to work Sunday afternoon in one last effort to spruce up the city for the America in Bloom competition.
With trash bags and grab sticks in hand, they headed out into the streets, alleyways and riverfront to collected litter and help the city put its best face forward.
Judges for the national beautification competition will conduct their evaluation of Huntington on Thursday, July 11, and Friday, July 12. They'll judge the city on its overall impression, environmental efforts, heritage preservation, urban forestry, landscaped areas and floral displays. Huntington is among four cities in the 30,000-50,000 category signed up for this year's competition. The others are Winter Garden, Fla., Holland, Mich., and DeKalb, Ill.
The winner can benefit from the national publicity, said Lisa Riley, co-chairwoman of Huntington in Bloom. And all participating cities benefit simply from the effort of beautifying their cities, which is important in economic development, tourism and quality of life.
Participating cities also get a written evaluation from the judges.
"They have knowledge of city planning and horticulture," Riley said. "They have impressive resumes and have crisscrossed the country. They can give you specific details on what to do better. That's almost the best part."
The very best part has been seeing so many people come together to improve the city, she said.
"We've already won, in that sense," she said.
Co-chairman Tom Bell said the volunteers who have officially signed up to help number more than 100, along with the others who have pitched in at their own businesses or in their own yards.
Among those who showed up on a cloudy Sunday afternoon to remove trash was Richard Cobb, a champion of street cleaning in Huntington for the past several years through the "Adopt Your Block: Be a Litter Gitter" program he founded.
"Huntington in Bloom is an excellent program for the city to get citizens involved and take ownership of the street they live on or the entire city," he said.
About halfway through the alley behind Mack and Dave's, Richard Cobb had counted 300 cigarette butts he'd collected.
"People don't realize the damage they do to the city's image (when they litter)," he said.
Also helping gather trash Sunday were Charlene Farrell, president of Hospice of Huntington, and her husband, Circuit Judge Paul Farrell.
"It's important to help our city shine," Charlene Farrell said. "I'm excited there's a big movement to clean up the city, and my husband, Paul, and I want to be part of the effort."
In addition to the downtown cleanup effort Sunday, organizers urge residents and business owners pick up litter and pull weeds in front of their properties and plant red, white and blue flowers in flower pots or window boxes.
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