Chillicothe Shademakers draw attention to community’s visually-appealing gardens

By Elise Zwicky For Chronicle Media

Terry and Pam Szmania sit on the porch of their home in Chillicothe that won a Catch the Beauty award in the front door category from the city’s Shademakers committee. This was the 26th year for the awards. (Photo by Maria Geiger)

Although they’ve lived in Chillicothe nearly 40 years, Lynn and Dave Wyzgowski had never heard of

the city’s Catch the Beauty awards until this year when they became one of the winners.

“It was a complete shock. I felt very undeserving of it because there are many people in town that have gorgeous yards,” Lynn Wyzgowski said. “But we both appreciate it very much.”

The Wyzgowskis won the special feature award in this year’s 26th annual Catch the Beauty awards sponsored by the city’s Shademakers committee. They were honored for a landscaped area on the corner of their yard on North Hushaw Street that previously held overgrown bushes.

“Some neighbors brought it to our attention that the view on that corner was being obstructed by the bushes, so we immediately addressed it,” Wyzgowski said. “They were old bushes, and I didn’t want anybody getting hurt, so we thought it was a good time to take them out.

With help from a friend, Marcia Mudd, the Wyzgowskis replaced the bushes with a rock-lined garden area featuring tall grasses, tulips, coreopsis and other plants that bloom in various seasons.

“It turned out really well,” Wyzgowski said. “What I like most about it is we have bulbs in there, so it’s really pretty in the spring but also in the summer and fall.”

While she revealed that gardening is actually not her favorite thing to do, Wyzgowski added, “It’s kind of fun to have something new out there, and it makes you more motivated to take care of it.”

The couple placed the engraved stone they received from the Shademakers on the corner for others to enjoy.

Trish Westerman-Connor, a city alderman and chairman of the all-volunteer city beautification committee known as the Shademakers, said the committee was impressed that the Wyzgowskis went “above and beyond” after hearing the neighbors’ concerns about seeing around the bushes.

“Instead of getting angry or just cutting back those bushes, they completely re-landscaped the area and gave it a whole new look. We were very pleased,” Westerman-Connor said.

The Wyzgowskis and the other Catch the Beauty winners were honored at the city’s Downtown Thursday event in July and at the city council’s August meeting.

In addition to the Wyzgowskis, the winners and their categories include Rosie and Mark Holocker, honorable mention, landscaping; Junior and Mary Spencer, residential award; the Mill, commercial landscaping; Jamie Stevenson and Denise Goforth, landscaping; Terry and Pam Szmania, front door; Maggie and Greg Hurd, hidden treasure; Sandy and John Sciarini, all-around winner; and Scott and Pam Carson, investment property.

This was the first year that an award was given for landscaping in a trailer park.

“Mark and Rosie Holocker have two trailers side-by-side and a beautifully landscaped yard in the trailer park with fountains and trees and flowers and mulch, so they received an honorable mention,” Westerman-Connor said.

“We want the awards to motivate people to make things look beautiful, because that brings up the value of your property and makes people want to look at our town, and (the Holockers) are doing that,” she added.

The winners were chosen from about 35 nominations. “We do think Catch the Beauty does encourage people to beautify their property, and people enjoy it. They love driving around and looking at the winners’ yards,” Westerman-Connor said.

The residential winners receive an engraved stone to put in their yard and a book of photos taken by committee member Maria Geiger. The businesses get a canvas photograph that they can display in their store.

In addition to the Catch the Beauty awards, the Shademakers have been busy moving plants and flowers they had previously planted in the median on Walnut Street near City Hall because the median is being renovated with a $20,000 state grant.

“We’ve always maintained that median and we planted and paid for the native plantings that are currently in it. We only have an annual budget of $1,200, so we don’t want those plants to go to waste,” Westerman-Connor said. “We’re hustling to get them moved before the median renovation starts later in October.”

With help from students in Illinois Valley Central High School’s two leadership classes, the plants are being replanted in City Park and down by the river where the Rotary Club is putting in a new eagle statue carved from wood.

“The Shademakers will be landscaping around the eagle with some beautiful flowers we took from the median,” Westerman-Connor said.

The Shademakers are also working to help the city regain its Tree City status, which is a nationwide program that provides the framework necessary for communities to manage and expand their public trees.

“We had the Tree City status for many years, and we kind of grew away from it and now we’ve evolved 26 years later so we’re trying to earn it back,” Westerman-Connor said.

Criteria to become a Tree City include hosting an Arbor Day event at which free trees are distributed, which the city did last year, and conducting a tree inventory.

“We’re working with Trees Forever, a state and federally funded program,” Westerman-Connor said. “The IVC leadership class is going to help us go around the city and make note of all the trees we have, what species they are and what condition they’re in, and we’ll make a plan on replacing ones that need to be replaced.”

Shademaker committee members in addition to Westerman-Connor and Geiger are Shawn Sutherland, Jane Harrison, Barbie O’Connor, Michelle Warren, Dixie Meek, Sandi Levell and Judy Thornton.

For more information about the Shademakers or how to help with the city’s beautification projects, email Trish Westerman-Connor at