Final preparations are now being made as Clonmel gets ready to put its best foot forward for the international Entente Florale competition.
The judges will arrive on Friday morning and following a presentation in the Town Hall will undertake a walking and coach tour of the town.
Brian Cleary, a member of the Steering Group that has co-ordinated Clonmel’s campaign, says that when Clonmel last entered the competition in 1987 Entente Florale was primarily a floral festival. “It has since expanded to include quality of life, environmental issues, community and partnership, and we believe Clonmel does very well under all those headings”, he says.
The locations to be inspected include the Main Guard, O’Connell Street, the Quaker Cemetery in O’Neill Street, Anne Street, Old St. Mary’s Church and the Town Walls, the Allotments, St. Oliver’s Primary School, Willow Park (as the winner of the Housing Estate Enhancement Scheme), the Gashouse Bridge, the River Walk, Mulcahy Park, the cemetery, the Wilderness Gorge, the nearby re-cycling centre, St. Patrick’s Well, Marlfield Lake and Church, Mick Delahunty Square and the County Museum.
Clonmel and the Longford village of Abbeyshrule are representing Ireland in this year’s competition.
The judges, who will travel from Belgium, Croatia, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Italy, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Germany, Slovenia and Austria will judge the town under ten headings including natural and built environment, cleanliness, landscaping, permanent and seasonal planting and environmental education.
The awards, which will be announced in The Netherlands on September 14, require an 85% ranking for gold standard, which demonstrates a consistent approach in both best practice and sustainable effort and must score very highly in each of the ten judging criteria.
Silver also requires a high overall standard of over 75% while 65% is required to achieve bronze, the status that Clonmel earned 25 years ago.
However the local committee regards the competition as more than just an opportunity to win gold, silver or bronze.
“All of the improvements and the work completed in the last few months haven’t been done just for one day. We hope they’ll have a long-term benefit to make Clonmel a nicer place to live in, work in and visit and to show how beautiful it is”, says Brian Cleary.
He’s delighted that people have remarked how well the town is looking and he says this should mean that visiors to Clonmel will enjoy the experience.
“I’ve never seen so many shops being painted. The level of interest throughout the town has been very good and there has been a great response from the business community and the community and voluntary sectors. We have 27 different groups taking responsibility for and working to perfect their own areas, and when you put all of those together we have a very good package to offer”.
People from across the community have come on board with the Steering Group, which as well as the Chamber of Commerce CEO Brian Cleary also includes Town Clerk Ger Walsh and representatives of the Borough and County Councils, Tidy Towns, Traders Association and Chamber of Commerce.
“No arms have had to be twisted. People are willing to help because they want the town to benefit. The Scouts, for example, went out in atrocious weather to distribute leaflets to every house in the town. An amount of work has been done in a very short period of time. The amount of work we faced was daunting but we got through it because people were prepared to go the extra mile. It shows what can be achieved when everyone pulls together”.
He’s also pleased that the materials used in promotional printing and design have been sourced from local companies and businesses.
A promotional video called Welcome to Clonmel has also been going down a storm on the video sharing website YouTube and funding will be sought to update the video.
Brian Cleary expects everyone to give the judges a warm welcome on Friday.
“We’ve a great town, sunshine or rain, with great facilities. We’re not a typical tourist town but this is an area of natural beauty that the people living here don’t always appreciate”, he says.