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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Calendar > Arts and Culture

Instilling pride in the community

America in Bloom judges visit Narrowsburg

By Autumn Schanil - staff writer

From the left, America in Bloom judges Douglas Airhart and Bruce Riggs stand in front of Jane Luchsinger's beautiful old barn on her Blue Hills Farm in Narrowsburg.
NARROWSBURG — Being locally recognized is an accomplishment in itself but to be recognized nationally is something many organizations, towns and people only dream of.
So when national America in Bloom judges Douglas Airhart and Bruce Riggs, both volunteers, made their way to the hamlet of Narrowsburg on Wednesday, July 13, the neighborhood was buzzing with excitement.
America in Bloom is an independent, non-profit corporation founded in 2001 to promote nationwide beautification via flowers, plants, trees, environmental and lifestyle enhancements through the education and involvement of community.
“There are six main criteria that we look for when judging,” explained Riggs. “They range from floral displays, overall landscaping, the urban forestry [street trees and trees in people's yards], the environment [what is going on that is pro-environment], heritage [history of community and its various aspects like cemeteries, old forts] and finally the overall impression of the place.”
But Riggs and Airhart don't only look at the surface beautification of an area, they also look into zoning laws, and the sustainable development and awareness.

“It's not just flowers,” said Riggs, “it's much more in depth than that.”
And anyone is invited to participate in the program including towns, villages, cities, townships and counties as well as military installations, business districts and university campuses.

Not to worry, a small hamlet like Narrowsburg isn't competing against a city like Philadelphia. Each place is judged according to population. Once judge evaluations are written and turned in, America in Bloom presents awards in multiple areas such as the Circle of Champions Award, the Community Champion Award and more.
“The way you really win though, is by participating because your community pulls together,” said Riggs. “That's the truth of the program. You do get an award, because of people like that, but that's not the purpose of it.”
“Each place is encouraged to continue in the program not for just one year, but each year after,” said Airhart, “and in the evaluations we give recommendations on things they can do to continue to beautify and improve the community.”

To get ready for the arrival of the judges, the hamlet of Narrowsburg (residents, businesses and the municipality) had been busy prepping and planning, beautifying, planting, and creating a 3-day itinerary for the judges.
Riggs and Airhart were fortunate enough to stay on Blue Hills Farm, owned by Jane Luchsinger, Town of Tusten Councilwoman, resident of Narrowsburg, and member of the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance.
They were treated to fabulous home-cooked breakfasts, and various tours throughout their stay including a tour of Main Street, Tusten's Veteran's Memorial Park, the Multi-generational park, the “Flats,” the community garden and more.
The Heron provided lunch on Thursday and dinner was served at Fort Delaware. Friday's lunch was provided by Iris Helfeld on the Flats followed by a potluck dinner at the Tusten Heritage Community Garden.
Everything added to the judge's overall impression of the hamlet.

“I think America in Bloom really prides themselves in the report that they're sending to us because it's a very in-depth report, whereas we're so used to being prided by the actual awards,” explained Luchsinger. “We're a little award-centric so to speak, so we have had to kind of re-train ourselves a little bit.”
“Winning isn't everything. It's the participation, the community coming together ... that's the real winning,” said Riggs. “We're planting pride in the community. If you are proud of where you live, you're happier.”
The hamlet of Narrowsburg will know the results come October. Whether awards are won or not, they have “taken the opportunity for growth and appreciation,” said Airhart.
To learn more about America in Bloom you can visit

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