There was a time when businesses in Blount County never had a thought about landscaping or aesthetics.
Speaking at the Chilhowee Club Thursday during the 17th annual Keep Blount Beautiful Bravo Awards, Dee Lidvall said when she came to Maryville as a young bride in the 1950s, it was a different place with regard to the aesthetics of businesses.
“People were conducting business in red brick buildings with parking lots and nothing about beauty at all,” she said.
Lidvall said this is the 17th year Keep Blount Beautiful has given the Bravo Awards, and each year, as businesses and agencies learn more about the honor, they want to upgrade their own businesses.
“Suddenly it became a competition not just to serve the customer,” she said. “It became almost like a wonderful disease where people served the community and cared about how their community looked.”
The luncheon recognized businesses and organizations in Blount County who maintained clean and attractive properties year round.
Lidvall said representatives from different Garden Clubs throughout Blount County judged the nominees, which were submitted by members of the public. The criteria for judging were appropriateness of plants to site, plant condition and use of design, use of color and organization. Also part of the judging was whether the efforts improved the original, improved the environment, had an impact, was clean and visually pleasing.
Lidvall said the Garden Club members visited each nominee. “All of these things were considered,” she said. “We made notes on each one and got together to compare.”
The 2010 nominees included : Asbury Place, The Barn Event Center of the Smokies, Cheddars, Clayton Corporate headquarters, Fairview Elementary School, Foothills Elementary School, R.T. Lodge on the campus of Maryville College, The Lodge at Valley View, Mary Blount Elementary School, Maryville Middle School, Preservation Plaza, The Reserve at Ross’ Spring.
The winners were:
• The Barn Event Center of the Smokies
• Cheddars restaurant
• Clayton Homes corporate office
• Mary Blount Elementary
• R.T. Lodge
• Fairview Elementary School (Environmental Improvement Award)
• Maryville Middle School (Environmental Improvement Award).
Nominated in the Building Reuse Awards were Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson, Blount County Health Department and Hot Rod’s 50s Diner. The Health Department and Hot Rod’s 50s Diner took the honors.
Lidvall said the Barn Event Center of the Smokies won a Bravo Award for the second year because of its landscaping. “They added more with the use of split rail fencing, rocks and water,” she said.
The Barn Event Center of the Smokies owner Richard Way praised the employees for their work in maintaining and improving the exterior of the facility. “This goes to the workers at the Barn Event Center,” he said.
The recently opened Cheddars restaurant won a Bravo Award for their building’s exterior use of plants and stone. “They’ve done a wonderful job blending so many features together,” Lidvall said. “We thoroughly appreciate all their efforts.”
Clayton Homes corporate office won a Bravo Award for the landscaping just outside of their dining facility. “They have added some thing that will knock your eyes out,” Lidvall said. “They added a water feature that winds down and away from the building and is lined with rock and planted beautifully. It’s a beautiful site.”
Mary Blount Elementary won a Bravo Award, and Lidvall said the Garden Club judges were impressed with the landscape design at the front of the school and how well it looked. “The design plan was excellent,” she said. “It was very lovely.”
Teacher Karen Hime represented the school. “I accept this on behalf of the students who planted the flowers, did the weeding and mulching, and the teachers who worked it,” she said. “We have a wonderful staff. This is so exciting.”
R.T. Lodge won a Bravo Award, and Lidvall said when Ruby Tuesday corporate bought the hotel, they inherited the wonderful setting of the Maryville College campus. “They enhanced it with how they matched rock on the edge of the building and tied it into the rock path,” she said. “It was a wonderful plan and development.”
Fairview Elementary School won a Bravo Environmental Improvement Award because of how students and staff worked with the Mountain Laurel Garden Club to improve the look of the recycling area behind the school. “The school provided the fence so now we don’t see the dumpsters, and the students raised money to beautify the property and buy the plants,” Lidvall said. “It has improved an unsightly spot.”
Maryville Middle School won the Bravo Environmental Achievement Award for how students transformed a small outdoor courtyard area into an Asian Garden. Librarian Alicia Luttrell leads the Anime Club, a student group that studies Japanese culture and animated novels. “We decided we would create a garden in the Asian style. It took three years to raise the money, and it took a lot of effort. I devised a Greenscapes crew, taught them basic skills of planting, and we tried to incorporate perennials. The Asian Garden is now a community effort. The students take pride in it.”
Bravo Building Reuse Awards were given to Blount County Health Department and Hot Rod’s 50s Diner.
Kathy Abbott, nursing supervisor with the Blount County Health Department said when the building, which formerly housed the Blount County Public Library, was renovated, the staff went from their former 10,000 square foot building to a facility with 30,000 square feet. The Health Department worked closely with the architect to ensure the facility would serve the needs of the public. “We knew this building from the mechanical room to the attic,” she said.
Ashley Schwartz, co-owner of Hot Rod’s 50s Diner, said she and her husband ran an Italian restaurant in Florida before they came to Blount County in 2006 with plans to open a smaller restaurant. They bought the former Tetters Biker Bar in Alcoa on Hannum Street, but that was just the beginning of the work they had to do, she said.
“It took almost six months. Everything had to be gutted - the walls and the ceiling, the parking lot had to be ripped up, and we added outdoor seating,” she said. “All the interior was done by my husband. It was a very long process but a very rewarding one.”
Keep Blount Beautiful board member Tim Self quoted from a Dr. Seuss book, “The Lorax,” when sharing why the Bravo Awards and what they honor are significant. ‘“If nobody cares, nothing gets better,’” he said. “Thank you so much for caring so much and making a difference.”