Each year, dozens of finalists in the All-America City Award are asked to submit quilt squares representing something special about their communities. The squares are stitched together into a quilt, which tours the country visiting each finalist town, city, county, or region.
First stop on the quilt’s 24-city tour is Kenai, Alaska, population 7,115; a finalist and winner in 2011. Among other things, Kenai’s award-winning application focused on a community-wide effort to clean up a local salmon fishery. Not surprisingly, the town’s quilt square illustrates a salmon leaping out of the river.
Torrance, California, number five on the quilt tour, features a beach scene on its patch. Ann Arbor, Michigan, sports jigsaw puzzle pieces fitting together to symbolize diverse groups coming together as a community.
“The All-America City quilt represents the spirit of the All-America City Awards—people working together to address our nation’s most pressing challenges,” explained National Civic League (NCL) President and chief quilter, Gloria Rubio-Cortés. “Think of the fabric of the quilt as something like the fabric of an American community.”
The patchwork varies from intricate needle point work—some communities enlist the efforts of accomplished quilters—to very simple and basic cut-and-paste shapes. Craft and technique, however, are less important than the sentiment and community pride.
It could be the town seal, for example, or an official city motto. It could be a local landmark, a scenic view or words expressing local values and goals, or a combination of any of the above. The patch-makers are encouraged to use their creativity.
The National Civic League, which gives the award to ten communities each year, encourages finalists and winners to celebrate their civic accomplishments all year long, and the quilt tour, which generates a surprising amount of media buzz in some localities, is one way to do it.
For the fourth year, Southwest Airlines is the Official Airline of the All-America City Awards. Southwest Airlines is launching the quilt on its national tour again this year. The quilt will stop in each finalist community for several days, where it will go on display in public buildings and community centers.
Last stop on the quilt’s 17-state tour will be Beloit, Wisconsin. Along the way it will visit Tupelo, Mississippi; Seaside, Oregon; Fayetteville, North Carolina; and Fort Worth, Texas, among other finalist cities.
You can learn more about the award program and follow events leading up to annual event via the All-America City blog at www.allamericacityaward.com. The 2012 All-America City Awards will be held in Denver, Colorado, June 30 - July 2 and will have a special focus on communities that mobilize to improve reading scores for at-risk students.
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Mike McGrath, the editor of the National Civic Review recently attended the All-America City Awards, which was sponsored by Southwest Airlines. Recently, I gathered with 800 civic activists and community problem solvers in Kansas City, Missouri at the All-America City Awards presented by the National Civic League (NCL). This nonprofit group promotes civic engagement and democratic local governance in communities of all sizes. Southwest Airlines sponsored the event which recognizes ten communities for their outstanding civic achievements. These awards celebrate the NCL’s and Southwest Airlines’ commitment to community. Communities applied for recognition by submitting three examples of innovative and inclusive community improvement efforts. Entries ranged from establishing a free clinic for uninsured residents to creating low income housing for seniors. One of the three examples submitted by each city must have also been youth oriented. The finalist communities then sent delegates, via Southwest of course, to the three-day event. I’ve been working at the National Civic League for a while so I’ve been a more than a few All-America City Awards, but every year I’m surprised and touched by the enthusiasm and excitement of the finalist communities. You get people of all ages, from all walks of life coming to this event. Our Civic Action Fair is really just a bunch of community-crazy people in booths giving away souvenirs, buttons, and local products. Then the local talent is exhibited. This year, we had a precision drum-line and drill team from Des Moines, Iowa, a Revolutionary War re-enactor/story-teller from Abingdon, Virginia, a couple from Dublin, California, playing Irish reels, as well as a teenaged classical trumpeter and assorted singers and dancers. You’ll never see a better slice of Americana. Then the delegates get down to the serious business of convincing a jury of civic experts why they deserved the award. After a lengthy deliberation, The AAC jury announced the ten All-America Cities! They were: Chandler, Arizona Lynwood, California Rancho Cordova, California North Miami, Florida Acworth, Georgia Des Moines, Iowa Salisbury, Maryland Gastonia, North Carolina Mount Pleasant, South Carolina El Paso, Texas The jury has had a difficult time choosing just ten. The finalist presentations were particularly good this year, they say. Congratulation to all the finalist communities who participated in this year’s program. We are posting videos of the various presentations on our blog, www.allamericacityaward.com. We are already looking forward to next year. Thanks again to Southwest for helping make this possible. Southwest is proud to support our local communities and an organization such as the National Civic League.
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