On strong points of volunteerism, sustainability and Kenna Cartwright Park, Kamloops has a big bouquet of roses this morning, having won the international challenge of Communities in Bloom for cities of 50,000 and over.
The Village of Ashcroft was one of a half dozen national winners, recognized for its versatile community volunteers.
The awards were presented Saturday in Ottawa to Mayor Peter Milobar and representatives of local committees that organized the city's entry.
"Yes, we won," said Gay Pooler, who co-chairs the committee. "You gotta like that."
Not even a snowstorm, which stranded the party in Calgary on Sunday on return flights home, dampened spirits.
Excitement grew at the awards ceremony as the local contingent awaited word on international results, Pooler said. It's impossible to figure beforehand how well a city might do because, though Canada dominates the competition, entries come from around the world.
This year, Kamloops was up against the Ontario cities of Barrie and Chatham-Kent as well as Northampton, England, and Seongbuk-gu, Seoul, South Korea. Each entry is distinct and every judge has an opinion.
When the city's name came up at the awards, the locals froze in disbelief.
"They said we'd won it and it was almost like delayed action," Pooler recalled. "It was very rewarding to be recognized against international competition."
Kamloops has entered the competition, a Canadian version of the U.K.'s Britain in Bloom, for the past 13 years. More than a beautification contest, the competition looks for examples of civic pride and citizen involvement with emphasis on quality of life and environmental sustainability.
This is only the second time the city has won internationally after first taking the honour in 2006. Although the City carries the ball, the game is as inclusive as organizers can make it.
"It's not just a City program," Pooler said. "The community is very involved in making the city a better place to live."
Kamloops had the good fortune last summer of hosting two judges who had visited the city once before in their official capacity, Pooler said. They asked that they not be shown the same city sights. Instead, they wanted to see civic examples of sustainability.
"They asked to see sustainability, so we took them to the dump," Pooler said with a chuckle before substituting the more conventional "landfill."
The City's $40-million sewage-treatment upgrade also had to impress, along with a boat tour showing off the rivers. As they returned to shore at Pioneer Park, more than 100 volunteers were waiting to receive them. The Bolshoi couldn't have choreographed a smoother presentation.
Careful management of Kenna Cartwright Park, reflected in its trail system, warranted a special mention from the judges, Pooler said.
"You always have hope that you're going to be successful, but you never know until you win," said Milobar from Calgary. "We were up against some fairly strong cities.
"I think it's important in terms of showing a clear direction of where we as a community want to go and how we're viewed by the outside world," he added.
Since its initial entry in year 2000, the city has twice won the national competition as well as "best blooming community" and winter lights recognition.
In some respects, the recognition is a prelude to the city hosting the awards in two years' time. As a persistent award winner, Kamloops has piqued the interest of those curious to see what makes it so.
"This is really just a build-up to 2015," Pooler said. "The national wanted us to host it. A lot of people want to go and see Kamloops."