Burke, Candyland win national awards with MSP

Staff report

Sue Burke at the America in Bloom Symposium receiving her award

Sue Burke at the America in Bloom Symposium receiving her award

Joseph Pratt and Sue Burke recently traveled to St Louis, Mo for the Annual America in Bloom Symposium, as city representatives for the America in Bloom program that Main Street Portsmouth oversees.

The America in Bloom Program is a network of cities all around the country that receive guest judges throughout the year. These judges meet with officials and community leaders, visit parks, tour various hotpots and more over a breakfast to dinner schedule that spans two full days. The assessment looks at the overall health of a community’s development.

Portsmouth was judged in June.

Main Street Portsmouth showcased a majority of local nonprofits and area ongoing projects. When the symposium began, the City of Portsmouth was recognized for its excellence in Community Vitality, due to the health of our nonprofit sector and growing parks system.

Moving on, the biggest award of the symposium was given, which was to an individual that showed exemplary volunteerism, desire to see progress, and had leadership skills. The award is known as the Dwight Lund Community Champion Award. Burke, who was one of seven national finalists, was recognized as the 2022 recipient for her work in Portsmouth.

Burke oversees the downtown beautification efforts. She is responsible for Alexandria Park and its renovations over the years. She assisted in the creation of 535 on Second. She maintains the esplanade and advocates for its improvements yearly. She also maintains 190 flowerpots and hanging baskets with seasonal décor in those as well as places like the city and county buildings, the esplanade and more. She assists in Tracy Park and downtown Christmas lights. She maintains public parking lot beds and manages contracts for watering flowers and cutting some public strips of grass. Previously, she was responsible for decorating Marting’s windows before the city sold the property. She also serves on the City Shade Tree Commission, Portsmouth Murals Inc., 1810 House, Unity Project, and more.

“Sue is one of the greatest inspirations I know of,” Main Street Portsmouth Executive Director Joseph Pratt said. “When she isn’t in a meeting or in a planning session, she has a shovel or watering hose in her hands. She gives without asking and is a blessing on this community. It was great to see her win a statewide volunteer award years ago, but, recently, to see her win a national volunteer award was emotional and well deserved, because of how much energy she puts into improving our city on a constant basis. Sometimes, it is easy to get tired, well, exhausted, and to get frustrated with one thing or another and want to stop giving so much of yourself away, but this isn’t something Sue has ever done. She continues to give even when she receives no thanks or meets an unfair obstacle. That’s why awards like this are important. They remind people like Sue that people notice their efforts.”

Burke was emotional and lost for words when she won the award. In her speech, she thanked everyone for recognizing her leadership, but gave all credit to her many volunteers that help, saying they make her work possible.

“It was very humbling and unexpected,” Burke said after. “I was totally unprepared to speak, because I never thought I’d win. I feel very honored to receive this award.”

Later in the evening, Portsmouth’s Candyland Children’s Museum won the national award for Coolest Place for Kids.

“I recently started looking at similar museums when I travel,” Pratt said. “The local museum sort of sparked my intrigue after the judging happened, because of such high praise they received for their innovation from our judges. After looking at some larger facilities, with much more money, it is noticeable how advanced our local museum is and how creative it has had to be in such a small space that manages to not feel small. I think it is easy to take for granted the things you have in your own community, so it is nice when someone else steps in and says, ‘woah’ and decides your local space is worthy of such a national award. The museum truly is an amazing space that Director Megan Baum and her board should all be incredibly proud of. We were honored to accept their award for them and then bring it home to present to Megan. They’re just incredible.”

Later in the symposium, it was announced Portsmouth Murals Inc. was a finalist in the Best Public Art Program for their efforts with the floodwall murals.

Main Street Portsmouth plans on furthering their relations with America in Bloom, continuing their efforts to further receive recognition for the city’s amazing features.

Sue Burke at the America in Bloom Symposium receiving her award
https://www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/28/2022/10/web1_sue.jpgSue Burke at the America in Bloom Symposium receiving her award

Staff report