Flowers bloom in spring and summer, but a vibrant community blossoms all year round.

That’s the thinking behind St. Paul’s submission for a special Communities in Bloom (CiB) award for the community’s winter initiatives.

Having risen through the provincial and national CiB levels, St. Paul is now competing in the International Challenge. Penny Fox of St. Paul Champions For Change says that in addition to hosting a visit by CiB judges this summer, the town wants to show that it is a year-round community.

The 2022 awards recipients will be announced in Victoria this week.

The winter award is one of six “extra’ categories that communities may enter. 

“We looked through them and we thought ‘hey, let’s do winter,’ because St. Paul does do a lot of activities in the winter. And of course, that’s not something that you can show your judges when they’re here in the summer,” Fox said.

To support their submission, the local committee compiled a list of organizations and activities that take place in the town over the November to March judging period. They submitted newspaper clippings, photos, and social media posts from as many events and activities as they could.

The committee listed more than 80 events and activities for all ages, and Fox says even that isn’t the full count.

The St. Paul application has been vetted and approved for final consideration for this week’s awards.

“People tend to think Communities in Bloom is all about summer. And we tend to think that because we’re in northern Alberta we’re a summer community, but we’re not,” Fox said. “We’re a year-round community. We have lots of things that happen in the cold months of the winter to get people out of their houses and moving around.” 

Of course the Covid-19 pandemic has made things difficult over the past couple of years. But Fox said the imagination, creativity, and effort put in by community groups to overcome those obstacles is further testimony to St. Paul’s sense of community.

“The last couple of years it has been critically important that people connected somehow,” she said. “We talk about some of the things that the library was doing, and FCSS were doing, because they really stepped up to the plate. They had to change all of their normal programming and come up with things that were safe, and they did an incredible job.”

Fox said there are more than 100 organizations in the town offering different kinds of services and programming, and every one of them depends on community involvement as participants or as volunteers. 

It’s important, she said, not only to build a sense of community but to be able to sustain it from one generation to the next. That will only happen if people can get together.

“As you get around the table and you have a coffee and you have a meal with somebody, you learn something. And then other connections happen that have nothing to do with why you’re meeting,” Fox said. “It’s all about getting out of your house and getting into a place where you meet somebody. And that can make all the difference. 

“And it doesn’t matter whether you’re playing a sport or playing cards or going out to the Legion,” she continued. “It’s the fact that you’ve got out of your house and put yourself in a position where you want to connect with somebody else. And then that’s when the benefit happens.”

The CiB Symposium and Awards are being held in Victoria October 20 – 23. There won’t be a St. Paul delegation in attendance, but “we’re hoping we’ll get some good news,” Fox said.