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Thursday, Sept. 18, 2008 12:57 am

Think spring by planting the town red this fall

Springfield beautification efforts to be in the national spotlight

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Regular IT readers are familiar with Springfield in Bloom (SIB), the friendly contest encouraging streetside beautification projects which will be in its fifth year in 2009. Hundreds of neighborhood and business-related projects have been completed during those first four years. The city's beautification effort, Springfield Green, which has been a partner with Illinois Times in SIB, has initiated transformations across the city in gateway landscaping, downtown planter displays and its Adopt-a-Street program. In 2009 the results of these beatification initiatives will be taken into the national spotlight when the capital city competes with communities across the country in "America in Bloom."

America in Bloom (AIB) is an independent, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization encouraging nationwide beautification programs, personal and community involvement and educational programs. Springfield will play host to judges next summer for this competition in the category for cities of 100,000 to 300,000 population. Local gardeners can help make the city a national winner.

AIB Community Chair is Lisa Ellis, who is also director of marketing for Illinois National Bank. She is overseeing a network of volunteers and business leaders, like Illinois Times, to showcase the community and prepare for the national judging.

Community participation and past efforts are key to the city's success in America In Bloom, according to Ellis. "The Springfield in Bloom contest, which has resulted in hundreds of new and upgraded streetside beautification projects will be a major component of our report on community involvement and landscaped areas. This is an area where I think our community will truly have a leg up," she said.

The theme for the America in Bloom program is 'plant the town red'. We've carried that theme throughout three related garden articles that follow, encouraging you to plant your own piece of the town this fall so everyone can enjoy your efforts as spring arrives. See the sidebar on page 20 for other specific ways you and your family can help make Springfield a city worthy of an America in Bloom award.

If the city is lucky enough to win an award we'll be happy about that. But the real reward for anyone who gets involved with this effort is to see our city filled with colorful yards and litter free streets. It is a thrill to see teams of citizen's donning yellow vests to clean up an alley or complete a neighborhood planting project. One yard, one person, one project at a time – let's get growing, Springfield.

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