By MIRANDA BAINES
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
The America in Bloom (AIB) judges are in town, and Tarboro’s AIB committee rolled out the red carpet for them, beginning with Sunday supper at the home of AIB committee member Candis Owens.
“I am really excited about these judges,” Owens said “It looks like they have been selected specifically for Tarboro, because they’re both historic preservationists.”
James R. “Jim” Abraham is a professor of historic preservation at the Savannah College of Art and Design, while Ed Hooker, III is the historic architect and cultural resource manager for Fort Riley, Kan., according to the judges’ biography.
AIB’s mission is to promote “nationwide beautification through education and community involvement.” Tarboro is one of three towns in the competition in the population category of 7,000 to 12,000. Other competing towns are Demopolis, Ala. and Coshocton, Ohio. The judges will have a guided two-day tour around town and will critique what they see in the categories of floral displays, urban forestry, landscaped areas, environmental efforts, heritage preservation, and overall impression.
“It’s like opening night for a play, because you’re wondering if everything’s going to be timed right,” said Buddy Hooks, Tarboro’s AIB co-chair. “At each of the stops, we’ll have a go-to person to explain those sites, which is something they asked for last year.” Last year was Tarboro’s first time entering the AIB competition, and Hooks said the AIB committee has tried to improve upon their areas of weakness in preparation for the judges’ visit this year. One area in which Hooks believes Tarboro will shine is heritage preservation.
“I think their (the judges’) attention will be had from the minute they come into town,” Hooks said. “They’ll be able to see how owners of historic properties maintain their businesses and residences.”
Among the areas in Tarboro that the judges will visit in the area of heritage preservation are the Town Common, cotton press, the historic trades preservation school at Edgecombe Community College, the Colonial Theatre, the Edgecombe County Veterans’ Military Museum, and Calvary Church and courtyard. Josh Edmondson, director of planning for the Town of Tarboro, noted that Tarboro has “the most architectural styles in our historic district in North Carolina.”
Owens said Abraham has “vast experience in renovating a theatre” and she hopes he’ll have plenty of time to talk with the people at the Colonial Theatre to help that project come to completion.
The judges also have a background in gardening, according to their biography. Hooker considers himself an “avid amateur gardener,” while Abraham is a lifelong gardener and takes pride in his hybrid tea roses. The AIB committee has made a special effort to beautify and landscape the roundabout at the end of Main Street and surrounding properties, as well as courthouse square.
“The courthouse square is ready for show time,” Hooks said. “It’s been cleaned up and pruned. Colorful plants were put around it.”
In the area of overall impression, the judges will take a look at the Main Street art project completed by Joyce Turner, executive director of Edgecombe County Cultural Arts Council, and volunteer students from North East Carolina Prep School. The idea of the project was to revitalize vacant Main Street buildings.
In the area of environmental efforts, the judges will view the town’s relatively new mobile recycling unit. The Town Common and the Old Town Cemetery on East Saint James Street are on the agenda in the category of urban forestry. The judges will wrap up their visit to Tarboro Tuesday afternoon.