In the Miss America of municipal beauty contests, St. Charles won the equivalent of Miss Congeniality last year. Ever since then, a committee of volunteers has worked to give the city a makeover in hopes of walking away with a crown during the 2016 America in Bloom awards.
Two judges will visit the city Monday and Tuesday. Both judges have extensive backgrounds in gardening and landscaping. They'll evaluate the city's environmental efforts, heritage preservation, landscaping, urban forestry, floral displays, community involvement and overall impression.
St. Charles is one of four communities across the country competing in America in Bloom's 30,000 to 50,000 population category. The other entries are Midland, Michigan; Henderson County, North Carolina; and last year's winner, Saratoga, California.
Win or lose, St. Charles will receive a detailed evaluation from the judges citing strengths and weaknesses. All participating communities receive a "bloom rating" and special mention if the judges find something extraordinary. Last year, St. Charles received a 4 out of 5 bloom rating and special mention for its landscaping.
"This year, we have new judges. We'll receive more critiquing and more opportunity to seek further improvements," Mayor Ray Rogina said. "The volunteerism that is spawned by this competition, to me, is really a joy."
Rogina recognized the volunteers during the city council meeting Tuesday night.
His wife, Diane, is part of that committee leading the city's America in Bloom efforts. She said they made a priority list of recommendations that came out of last year's competition and implemented as many as they could in the lead-up to the new round of judging.
"We're excited to see what the new judges have to say when they look at our community," she said. "We're all hoping we get good, interesting feedback."
City officials will welcome the judges at a special ceremony Sunday. The results of the competition will be announced in mid-October.