Judges From America in Bloom will be part of a community forum, hosted by Carthage in Bloom volunteers, at 3 p.m., Friday, July 27, at the Carthage Water & Electric Plant Community Room, 627 W. Centennial.

Judges from the national group America In Bloom will be in Carthage this week to look at the efforts of local volunteers, and they will make suggestions on how to make Carthage more beautiful at a public meeting.
Judges will be part of a community forum, hosted by Carthage in Bloom volunteers, at 3 p.m., Friday, July 27, at the Carthage Water & Electric Plant Community Room, 627 W. Centennial.
Carthage In Bloom is an effort by volunteers, led by Abi Almandinger and Bryan Stringer, to beautify Carthage using flowers and landscaping at public buildings and on private property.
Stringer said the judges are part of the nationwide America In Bloom project that sponsors competitions among communities that are members of the group.
“We paid a fee, $1,000 that we raised privately, to join this group, and they're sending these judges to look at our town,” Stringer said. "It's a national competition against municipalites our size, so we're competing against towns in the 10,000-15,000 population range on seven different categories, flowers, landscaping, historical preservation, and other things. They're going to judge us and they'll give us recommendation on how we can improve Carthage as an overall town.”

Stringer and Almandinger started working with other volunteers in March to beautify Carthage through the Carthage In Bloom project, which is affiliated locally with the Vision Carthage Citizen's Committee, and nationally with America In Bloom.
The goal was to plant flowers, clear weeds and make Carthage beautiful.
Their initial efforts, especially through April and into May, focused around the Jasper County Courthouse. They cleared gravel from around the base of the building and landscaped and added flowers along the sidewalks, around the flags on the southeast corner and the monuments on the north side.
Other groups that signed on to the project were the Carthage School District, Fair Acres Family Y and Carthage Public Library.
The Y is using volunteers to work around it's building on South Grand and Library staff and volunteers, including Stringer, are working and the Dale Memorial Gardens outside the Library.
Stringer said the work continues, although repairs to the Courthouse roof have limited access to some of the flower beds.
“Only about three-fourths of the flower beds are done, we couldn't finish the flower pots because of the roofing project. But I'm going to go in this weekend and weed them all so they are free of weeds and make sure there are no bugs or insects,” Stringer said. “Today I went to the Library and inspected them, and they had bagworms and Japanese beatles and I sprayed the trees before I left and told (the staff) what to spray and where. They're going to get on that right away.”

Stringer said professional volunteer judges will look around the community and judge based on seven criteria, flowers, landscaped areas, urban forestry, environmental efforts, celebrating heritage, community vitality, and overall impression.
“This is the first year Carthage has participated in America in Bloom, and it is one of the many proud and passionate communities across America working on local revitalization programs with an eye to receiving a prestigious America in Bloom national award,” Carthage In Bloom said in a written release. “In addition to a receiving detailed written evaluation from the judges citing strengths and opportunities for improvement, participants a special mention for what the judges deem to be an extraordinary project or program.”