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Kalamazoo, MI - Kalamazoo in Bloom -

  • Subject: [cg] Kalamazoo, MI - Kalamazoo in Bloom -
  • From: Adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Sun, 27 Jun 2004 10:46:51 EDT


Many community gardeners do work outside of their garden's gates in neighborhood beautification projects.  Now I don't know if any of the folks from the Kalamazoo Community
Gardening Community are involved in this project, ( http://www.kcgi.org/ ), but my guess is that there has been some "cross fertilization " between this and other projects with their outstanding master gardening program ( Kalamazoo Master Gardeners ).

Kalamazoo In Bloom seeks higher profile
Sunday, 27, 2004
tharoldson@kalamazoogazette.com 388-8545
Their job is simple -- beautify Kalamazoo County.
The problem for Kalamazoo In Bloom-Flower County USA, though, is that while the thousands of flowers they plant are highly visible, the organization that has been around for 20 years is not.
"I think we still suffer an identity crisis," said Julie VanderWeele, Kalamazoo In Bloom treasurer and a board member for the past 10 years, starting when the group was known as Flowerfest.
Most people when they look at the flowers in Bronson Park or in the Portage city center think the cities do that, and the cities do. But what they don't understand is that for every dollar the city donates to us, we spend $2 on the flowers."
The former Flowerfest was planted in 1984 to beautify public areas such as Bronson Park in Kalamazoo and the Portage District Library-City Hall area in Portage.
Flowerfest also was designed to promote Kalamazoo County's bedding plant industry, the largest of any county in the nation. That remains a goal of Kalamazoo in Bloom.
But Flowerfest had an identity problem of its own, board members said. Because its annual festival in Bronson Park was its chief fund-raiser, most people thought Flowerfest was only the festival.
In 2002, the festival was discontinued and in 2003 Flowerfest became known as Kalamazoo In Bloom-Flower County USA.
"The name Kalamazoo In Bloom is more in keeping with the true mission -- beautification of the Kalamazoo area," VanderWeele said.
That beautification is done primarily by the planting of hundreds of thousands of flowers. In May, at the Portage Civic Centre Area in front of the Portage District Library and around Portage City Hall, more than 174,000 annuals are planted by Kalamazoo In Bloom and Portage Parks and Recreation Department volunteers.
Also in May, volunteers planted 80,000 flowers in Kalamazoo's Bronson Park. The showcase of those beds of begonias, marigolds and salvias is an eye-catching peacock made out of flowers.
Both cities financially support Kalamazoo In Bloom. Portage's annual subsidy is $13,000, the city of Kalamazoo provides $10,000 and the Kalamazoo Valley Plant Growers Cooperative chips in $7,500. The other half of the $60,000 Kalamazoo In Bloom annual budget comes from more than 200 individual donations.
"From our standpoint, it's a tremendously important for community beautification," said Bill Deming, Portage parks and recreation director and a former Flowerfest board president.
"We get a great number of visitors and families and friends who come to Portage just to appreciate the flowers. It has become a focal point for our community."
To get the word out, Kalamazoo In Bloom hosted events Saturday at the Portage District Library, though a free all-day gardening seminar planned for that day at the Portage Senior Center had to be canceled for lack of registrations.
Some feel that Kalamazoo In Bloom's lack of identity may be one reason for the seminar's poor draw.
That's one reason why the group is working harder to branch out from being known as primarily a downtown Kalamazoo organization to one that also has roots in Portage, Richland and Schoolcraft.
It is also reaching out with an annual Garden Party. Thursday's second annual Garden Party at River Street Flowerland in Comstock attracted about 150 people to hear music by the Heartland Bluegrass Band, stroll through greenhouses and gardens, sample a gourmet picnic and discuss flowers.
While the flowery organization may be a mystery to some in this area, it has caught the eye of a national program. In 2002, Kalamazoo County won a national category first-place award from America in Bloom for its significant beautification projects in the county and was second in the international category in 2003.
The America in Bloom horticulture program honors communities who use plants and trees to improve their surroundings. The contestants are judged in eight areas, including urban forestry, floral displays, landscaped areas, community involvement and environmental awareness.
From July 22-24 two America in Bloom judges will be in the county again to evaluate the area in the national category. The Kalamazoo-Portage area is in competition with Des Moines, Iowa and Naperville and Aurora, Ill.
Becky Yaple, Kalamazoo In Bloom events chairwoman, said it's important for the organization to get involved with the America In Bloom contest.
"The value of winning is in the doing and getting ready," Yaple said. "It brings the community together and it makes you aware that maybe we ought to clean up this street corner or this creekside.
"Our group is evolving and we are growing in how we look at our surroundings and how we better value green things in our community."
© 2004 Kalamazoo. Used with permission

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