For the fourth time in the last 15 years, Lewes has been recognized as one of the most beautiful small towns in the country.
The city was the named the winner of the Champions Category for small towns at the 2015 America in Bloom Symposium in Holland, Mich., Sept. 26.
“We're ecstatic,” said Warren Golde, founder and co-chair of Lewes In Bloom. “It's just great for the town and all of the volunteers.”
Lewes has previously won America in Bloom honors in 2010, 2005 and 2003. The Champions Category featured three-time winners and was a new category in the competition this year.
“I feel just sheer joy for the 130-plus members,” said Linda Davison, co-chair of Lewes in Bloom. “Without them, we couldn't have done it.”
Davison said she went to Michigan confident Lewes had a decent shot at taking home the prize. Lewes was up against Echo, Ore.; Gallipolis, Ohio; Greendale, Ind.; and McCall, Idaho. All participants were evaluated on six criteria: overall impression, environmental awareness, heritage preservation, urban forestry, landscape and floral displays. They were also judged on their community involvement across municipal, residential and commercial sectors.
“We just went there feeling we did the best we could,” she said.
Lewes in Bloom welcomed judges Leslie Pittenger and Bruce Riggs from America in Bloom in July. Over two days, they toured public and private gardens, Lewes' parks and Cape Henlopen State Park, Golde said. Judges also enjoyed a lunch at Black Hog Farmstead featuring vegetables picked from the Children's Learning Garden in Stango Park.
“It is obvious that the Lewes in Bloom program has a major impact on the city,” the judges said in a press release. “Its expansion has involved so many new volunteers. Repeatedly, the residents told us how much the LIB program has pulled the city together on many fronts. Efforts to create the overall colorful floral displays, extensive attractive landscaping, new tree plantings, tree inventory and rejuvenation of historic structures truly transformed the city’s downtown area.”
Lewes received a five-out-of-five blooms rating. Judges also gave special recognition to Lewes' floral displays.
Lewes in Bloom was created in 2002. Over the last two years, volunteer membership has grown from about 40 members to nearly 140. Golde credits the growth to Davison's social skills and the group's presence on social media.
Now that Lewes can now be considered the champion of champions, Golde said, the city has been encouraged to enter Communities in Bloom, an international competition that would pit Lewes against national winners from around the world.
Golde said work will not stop, as Lewes in Bloom will continue its mission to be the most beautiful small town in America.
“I think we came back from the symposium with a wealth of new ideas and visions that will make Lewes an even more vibrant community in the future,” Golde said.