By: Sarah Hays, Local History Librarian
Today, the city of Barberton is fortunate to have a Beautification program that is responsible for coordinating various flower gardens throughout the city, planning the Mum Festival, and organizing the holiday lights display at Lake Anna, among other projects. However, the city has not always financed such a program, and consequently, in the past, other groups and individuals made voluntary contributions to help promote a handsome and attractive appearance for the city.
The first such effort was during William Mitchell’s tenure as mayor of Barberton, 1910-1913. He was an ardent supporter of making improvements for the benefit of Barberton. He was responsible for enlarging and developing the city. He also wanted to make it cleaner and more attractive. In April 1910, he requested the citizens of Barberton make a special effort to cleanup around their homes. To spur the cleanup along, he sponsored the first flower garden contest. The contest was free to enter, and open to all property owners and tenants. Mitchell personally donated ten dollars (present day $249) for prize money, and convinced a few others to contribute money toward the pot. The total amount of prize money was $22.00 (present day $548), which was to be split amongst the winners.
The contest was designed to judge the beauty of the yard and flowers only. The size and value of the house or property would not be considered. Mitchell placed a restriction that contest entrants had to do their own gardening work. If hired help was used, prizes would not be awarded to those contestants. The contest was judged between August 15th and August 31st, 1910. The prize money of $22 was divided between ten winners with awards ranging from $1.00 to $6.00. Since 1910, there have been many efforts to make Barberton beautiful. Some have been long-lasting, while others have been short-lived.
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