According to awards chairperson Jack Clasen, “We have 42 communities this year, a 27% increase over last year. The great news is that we have a 50% increase in participants over the past 2 years. New this year is a Circle of Champions category in which 11 past winners will compete against one another in 2 population categories ­ small and mid-sized.”

AIB board president Charlie Hall, Ph.D., said, “I am quite excited that we have more cities this year than we’ve had in a while. I think it speaks to the improving economic conditions at the local level, as well as the recognition that quality landscapes are one of the best forms of economic development that a city or community can engage in. It’s also exciting to consider that we have a good mix of small and medium-sized cities this year, with a number of first-time communities. Obviously, word is getting out about the AIB program and the good results communities are realizing from participating, said Hall.

Each participant will receive a two-day visit from a two-person team of specially trained judges. They will tour the community, meet with volunteers, elected officials, and members of the business community, and then develop an extensive written evaluation. Many mayors have commented that the evaluation would cost upwards of $10,000 if the city had hired a consultant to do the work.

Awards will be announced at the annual symposium and awards to be held this year in Holland, MI on September 24-26. Evaluations will be sent to participants on September 28.

Participants are as follows:

Population Categories
Under 3,500
Independence, LA; Slippery Rock, PA; Edmonston, MD; Castle Rock, WA;
Combined Locks, WI

3,500 to 6,000
West Columbia, TX; Brewton, AL; Lewisburg, WV; Catskill, NY

6,000 to 12,500
Tarboro, NC; Newtown Twp, PA; Belpre, OH; Morro Bay, CA

12, 500 to 16,000
Marietta, OH; Woodhaven, MI; Warrenville, IL; Holliston, MA

16,000 to 20,000
Fairhope, AL; Madisonville, KY; Fairview Park, OH; Ottawa, IL

20,000 to 30,000
Hammond, LA; Winter Park, FL; Venice, FL; Calabasas, CA;

30,000 to 40,000
Saratoga, CA; Santa Paula, CA; Hopkinsville, KY; St Charles, IL;

Over 40,000
Rockford, IL; Lexington, KY; Henderson Co, NC

Champions Category
Small Champions Category
Gallipolis, OH; Echo, OR; Lewes, DE; Greendale, IN; McCall, ID

Mid-Sized Champions Category
Estes Park, CO; Arroyo Grande, CA; Washington, MO; Holland, MI