Despite winning several accolades from America in Bloom and Communities in Bloom over the last 20 years, Lewes isn’t satisfied just yet.
Lewes in Bloom members, city officials, businesses and nonprofit groups rolled out the red carpet July 11-12, welcoming judges from America in Bloom as the city seeks to be recognized as the most beautiful town in America.
Over the course of two days, dozens of volunteers guided Ed Hooker III of Camp Springs, Md., and Evadne Giannini of Woodbridge, N.Y., around town, not only showing off the city’s picturesque landscapes, gardens and parks, but also landmarks such as the Lightship Overfalls, Lewes Historical Society and its museums, Cape Henlopen State Park, Lewes Community Garden, Lewes Unleashed dog park, and the University of Delaware’s Hugh R. Sharp Campus. Also on display were the accomplishments of Art in Bloom, a Lewes in Bloom subcommittee that has overseen installation of several pieces of public art throughout the city.
Giannini has been an America in Bloom judge for three years. She said she had visited Lewes about 10 years ago and was excited to come back.
“It’s like opening this wonderful Christmas present,” she said at a welcome breakfast at Irish Eyes July 11. “You have done a phenomenal job; coming across on the ferry and then taking the road coming in was really very, very special.”
Lewes in Bloom has done so much over the last two decades, it’s almost impossible to list all its accomplishments and awards. Lewes in Bloom entered its first America in Bloom competition in 2002. Although it didn’t win, the judges provided some valuable constructive criticism. Volunteers got to work right away, reentered the competition in 2003, and won it. They added more America in Bloom awards in 2005 and 2010. In 2015, Lewes entered the America in Bloom Circle of Champions competition against other former winners, and the city triumphed again.
Lewes in Bloom founder Warren Golde said America in Bloom has been instrumental in the progress of Lewes and its beautification efforts.
“One of the values of entering the program is we get wonderful recommendations from the judges,” he said. “And Lewes in Bloom has listened to what the judges have said and made many improvements.”
It was time to step up the competition even more. In 2018, Lewes in Bloom entered the Communities in Bloom International Challenge, going up against cities and towns from around the world. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the First Town came out on top once more.
Lewes in Bloom will learn the results of its latest effort at the America in Bloom conference in St. Louis, Mo., this September.
The idea for Lewes in Bloom came in 2001, when Golde was stranded in England following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Without knowing for certain when he would be allowed to return home, Golde toured the country. He visited the Town of Lewes in the south of England, for which the Delaware town was named. The town was beautifully adorned with flowers, plants and other welcoming accoutrements, and Golde brought that vision home.
The notion of beautifying Delaware’s Lewes was solidified a few months later when he met representatives from American in Bloom at a trade show in Ohio.
He first met with Betsy Reamer, Lewes Chamber of Commerce executive director; then he was joined by seven women who responded to an ad in the Cape Gazette. Together, they became the founding members of Lewes in Bloom.
The group now boasts more than 300 members, or patrons, as they call themselves.
With more volunteers came more more responsibility. When Lewes in Bloom started in 2002, it cared for a half-dozen areas. Now, it’s nearly 25. They also plant more than 7,000 annuals and more than 26,000 tulip bulbs each year.
Mayor Andrew Williams, a Lewes native, said he’s seen a lot of changes over the years.
“Most are for the better,” he said. “Certainly Lewes in Bloom represents one of those things, not just for the aesthetics it provides to the town, but Warren has set the standard for what a volunteer organization is and can be.”
Lewes Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Betsy Reamer said Lewes in Bloom’s efforts have greatly impacted the local economy.
“[Lewes in Bloom] brings people to town – they stay in our accommodations, they eat at our restaurants, they shop in our shops,” she said. “[Lewes in Bloom] is an economic development organization, whether they know it or not.”
Realtor Lee Ann Wilkinson had similar things to say regarding Lewes in Bloom’s impact on the housing market.
“Lewes seems to hold its value,” she said. “And one the reasons I feel like it does is because of [Lewes in Bloom].”