Stories from the Road - Brewton, Alabama

Stories from the Road - Brewton, Alabama

By Stephen Pategas, AIB Judge

Stephen Pategas
This being my fourth year of judging, I have come to realize that there isn't a typical judging experience. This is probably heightened by the fact I am self employed as a landscape architect and leading the Winter Park Blooms efforts in Winter Park, Florida (nestled up to Orlando but a world away).

With Winter Park's fifth entry this year everything should have been push button. What I did not count on was a judging assignment with a 7 AM flight the day after the AIB judges finished in Winter Park. I had to make arrangements with Brewton, Alabama, to coordinate with my fellow judge, juggle my work load to block out six days instead of two, pack my bag while I was busy hosting the judges, and twist my mind set from being judged - to judging a community. Numerous checklists were crucial for pulling off those feats.

Hosting AIB judges is a fairly demanding two days, and the day after is counted on for decompression, deep satisfying breaths, and a round of back patting amongst committee members. Instead, at 5:30 a.m. I was being driven to that early morning flight to Pensacola, FL (nearest airport to Brewton). Thank you to my wife Kristin (also an AIB judge) for that sacrifice. The good news was there was time to sightsee that day in gorgeous weather in Pensacola with fellow judge Laurie Potier-Brown from Tampa. There was the question of what to do with luggage when someone wants to spend a day walking around as a tourist. The answer is: the chamber of commerce! Willa cheerfully watched our bags until Connie Baggett from Brewton picked us up in the late afternoon. We even picked up advice and a free map from Willa. We mailed her a thank you note from Brewton.

The one-hour drive to Brewton was picturesque and informative as we learned more about Brewton. Over the next two days we learned about the history of Brewton with its early founding based on the timber industry and the use of Burnt Corn and Murder Creeks to transport timber. Yes, there are stories behind those names and that is just one of the fun parts about being introduced to new places with their sincere, friendly people. Of course we saw much more, including stately mansions built by the timber barons of the past, a revitalizing downtown in spite of freight trains barreling through, new parks and trails under development, and a pitcher plant bog that was nothing less than magical. Fortunately it wasn't too moist and as I had feared, I didn't get my only pair of shoes wet.
Pitcher plant bog
One thousand miles later, I was home. But no time for relaxing as I had to work on a recap of Winter Park's judging experience, return more than a few emails, start on an Evaluation Report for Brewton, and prepare for visiting four other communities I will judge in July. I wonder how early my flight to Lewisburg, West Virginia will leave?

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