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Bemidji in Bloom tour provides direction for future

America in Bloom Judges Jana Kattenhorn and Bill Hahn see the potential for bringing out Bemidji's bloom.

The judges toured 80 percent of Bemidji Thursday, following Wednesday's tours of Front Yard Gardens and reception. On Thursday afternoon, they described some of their impressions during a press conference at Bemidji City Hall.

The two judges have been assigned the America in Bloom entries in the 10,000-15,000-population category. However, they said the four cities -- Gardendale, Ala.; Wicliffe, Ohio; Buffalo, Minn.; and Bemidji -- all fall between populations of 11,000 and 13,000. Except for Bemidji, a regional center, they said the cities are all bedroom towns to larger population centers.

They admired the unique aspects of Bemidji, especially Lake Bemidji and the Mississippi River, and the city's determination to take care of these jewels. They also found interesting the differences in character between the older part of the city on the west side of the lake and the more rural, but still within city limits, residential areas on the east side.

"There are a number of things that are uniquely yours," said Kattenhorn.

The judges commented on the opportunities for outdoor recreation, in part because of the lake and river, and the obvious enjoyment people have of these resources.

Hahn cited the gradual annexation planned for Bemidji's expansion as a positive sign, but something that will change the demographics of the city.

"That's a good problem to have because you're growing," he said. "I think the umbrella of Bemidji in Bloom is going to draw even more people in as they see what a livable city it is."

The judges made suggestions for continuing to improve the city. Using the Community Gardens to link elders with children, to teach sowing, harvest and marketing techniques was one idea.

"Another thing you're going to have to change as you grow and annex is your gateways," Hahn said. "I would say make them big and bold."

The judges recommended attractive signs at the entrances to the city with expansive colorful plantings to set them off.

Jean Humeniuk, who leadsBemidji in Bloom, will attend the America in Bloom Symposium Sept. 28-30 in Eureka Springs, Ark., where she will receive the entire report prepared by Hahn and Kattenhorn. However, the judges urged others to join the symposium to share ideas and accomplishments with other communities. The cost is $199 per person. For details and registration forms, log onto

The judges award blooms to cities according to a list of criteria including environmental care, tidiness, attractiveness and community involvement. Bemidji received one bloom in 2005, the first year of participation, for environmental protection. Humeniuk said she hopes the city will receive another bloom this year, working up to the maximum of five blooms by 2009. The judges also pick winners among the various population groups and announce them at the symposium, but America in Bloom is more of a self-improvement project than a contest.

"I would say the city of Bemidji is a winner already without winning the contest because you're in the process," Hahn said.