By Marcia Love
Maple Creek has had much to celebrate in the last year, and the Communities in Bloom Soiree on Wednesday night was a celebration.
Over 110 people came out for the event at the Armoury, themed ‘A Bloomin’ Celebration!’ – including about 30 representatives from other communities across Saskatchewan who were in town for a provincial Main Street training course being hosted by the Maple Creek Main Street Program. The evening celebrated Maple Creek’s achievement of five blooms in last year’s provincial CiB competition, winning in the provincial population category of 2,001-3,000.
Mayor Barry Rudd brought greetings on behalf of the town, congratulating the committee on its hard work and dedication.
“The growth that we’ve seen since the Communities in Bloom project started, it’s been wonderful,” he said, noting council members have received many comments when they attend meetings in other towns in the province. “We are definitely on the map, and it does make one boast as to the volunteers that do this. That’s the big thing, is the depth of the volunteers that we have in this community.”
The committee announced its flower of the year for 2015 as the petunia. Everyone present received a package containing six petunia seeds and peat pellets to plant them in. Residents and business owners are encouraged to use the flower in their gardens and floral displays this summer.
New this year is a photo contest. The local CiB committee invites residents to participate in the contest, which will be used to develop a calendar. Photos must be taken in or within 25 miles of Maple Creek, depicting priorities of CiB such as heritage conservation, urban forestry, landscape, floral displays, environmental action and tidiness. Photos must be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org by July 31. The 12 winning photos will be used to create a 2016 calendar. All proceeds from calendar sales will support CiB projects.
A calendar was developed last year using photos the committee collected from around Maple Creek. Two hundred calendars were printed and all were sold before the new year.
Royce Pettyjohn, CiB chairperson and Main Street Program co-ordinator, was the guest speaker for the evening, discussing the correlation between both organizations in the community. Both work to beautify the town and have a heritage component, he said.
“They both have the same objective, and that is to make Maple Creek a more appealing place to visit, to live and to invest,” Pettyjohn explained.
He discussed the importance of first impressions of the community – from the tourists who drive through town in the summer to people who visit the town website. While people are told “don’t judge a book by its cover,” judgments are being made more frequently and faster nowadays thanks to the Internet, he stated.
“We’re not spending the time getting to know a community,” Pettyjohn said. “We see what we see and make judgments almost immediately.”
Because of this, it is important to ensure that first impression is a positive one.
Maple Creek participated in the Saskatchewan Economic Development Association’s (SEDA) First Impressions Community Exchange Program this summer, in which eight residents of Unity came to town to point out highlights of the community and identify what could be done differently or improved upon. Participants from Maple Creek then did the same in Unity.
Pettyjohn noted the most important factors in attracting visitors, new residents, and business owners is clean and well-maintained streets and buildings, architectural interest, greenery and green space, arts, culture and recreation, pedestrian-friendliness, and distinctive shopping.
“I think Maple Creek is certainly well on the way to ticking off many of those boxes,” he said.
Heritage districts and buildings create an authentic experience for visitors. While many small towns in the province have lost theirs, Maple Creek thankfully has not, Pettyjohn said.
The town continues to focus on becoming the kind of community where people want to live and invest through the Maple Creek Heritage District Implementation Plan, Maple Creek Cultural Plan, Grand Theatre feasibility study, and the business retention and expansion survey which is being used to create an economic development plan.
Pettyjohn noted CiB is not simply about planting flowers, as many have assumed. It’s about making the community itself “bloom.”
CiB member Nola Sanderson emphasized the committee can always use more volunteers.
“You don’t have to sit on the steering committee, you don’t have to do a big job,” she stated, noting it can be as simple as picking up garbage or helping with weeding. “It’s just really fun doing this and getting to know people in the community.”