Cleethorpes In Bloom’s Jeff has got big blooming shoes to fill!

For the last 18 years, Jeff Blanchard has been in the forefront and working tirelessly in the background to bring Cleethorpes into award-winning bloom status year after year.

And now the time has come for the vice-chair of the Cleethorpes In Bloom committee to hang up his ‘bloomin’ hat and devote more time to family life and visiting relatives who live far away.

Speaking from his Brereton Avenue home he shares with his wife Judy, Jeff explained: “We have family in Australia and Shanghai and we would like to the afford the time to go see them.

“Instead of just visiting for a couple of weeks it will be nice to have an open-ended ticket and stay for longer.

“Sometimes doing the In Bloom work has meant I have had to fit my personal life around that.

“And I think I have been doing it long enough – we have achieved just about everything accolade-wise, so perhaps it’s time someone else stepped in and up to the mark to continue to keep Cleethorpes blooming.”

Jeff, who has helped the town win medals and awards year after year, just recently helped Cleethorpes become the winner of the best coastal resort category, which means our resort now qualifies to enter the Champion of Champions contest in 2016 and will be competing agains Ahoghill (Ulster), Birmingham, Durham, Lytham and St Pierre du Bois in Guernsey.

Jeff continued: “I know I can’t do it forever. It’s very hard work at times, not just for me but the rest of the committee.

“I don’t suppose people will realise how much hard work and planning etc goes into our efforts,” he said.

“18 years ago, me and Bob Callison both worked for the Chamber of Commerce and it was the council who approached us both to help get people and local businesses involved in the town, to help motivate people and to put Cleethorpes back on the map.

“And that first year in 1996, we came fourth in the In Bloom competition. The judges would always write recommendations down and we gradually took these pointers on board and started to go from strength to strength.

“It’s the people and the teamwork I shall miss, the gold and silver awards have been the icing on the cake,” he added.

Jeff, who worked for the YEB as shop manager for many years in both Louth and Grimsby, continued: “Once we started to take things seriously, we really put Cleethorpes on the map. And then we wanted to be part of the East Midlands In Bloom categories and had to apply to the Yorkshire In Bloom and the RHS teams.

“This meant we would be part of and representing Lincolnshire which made a whole lot of difference.

“I feel that as a team we have pulled Cleethorpes up by its boot straps and put our ‘blooming’ town well and truly on the map.

“I will also miss going out to meet different people and organisations. Many other places like Mablethorpe, Skegness, Grimsby, Laceby, Caistor, Louth and Immingham are taking the In Bloom competitions more seriously.

“They have seen what it can do for a town.

“I am particularly proud of the community alleyways categories and the people involved in them.

“In fact the In Bloom officials have taken note of the work that has been done, especially in Kew Road and Crowhill Avenue, and are using those examples as a benchmark to help of towns etc,” he added.

Of his friend and chair of Cleethorpes In Bloom, Bob Callison, Jeff said: “The amount of work Bob puts in is unbelievable and he runs his own business, too.

“We have worked side by side and I shall miss his presence, help, support and friendship.

“I shall also miss the spirit of everyone pulling in the same direction, keeping Cleethorpes up there with the best,” he added.

Jeff, who has been married to Judy for 26 years, reflected: “I would always get emotional each time we went up on stage to receive our In Bloom awards.”

And Jeff will be keeping a keen eye on how well Cleethorpes blooms in the competition next year – even if he’s watching from Australia or Shanghai!

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“It will take a very tall man to fill Jeff’s shoes.”

So says the chairman of Cleethorpes In Bloom, Bob Callison, as Jeff steps down from his role.

“After 18 years the In Bloom team could not have done all that we have achieved without him.

“Both as chair and vice, Jeff has been the vital blood and the backbone of all our successes,” Bob added.

Bob talked about previous years in which he, Jeff and the committee have been up as early as 4am on a morning watering, planting, tidying up and preparing for the In Bloom judges to arrive.

“Jeff is a very hands-on kind of guy, he has always been by my side, be it on the prom, planting or at meetings and presentations, and I can honestly say we have never had a cross word,” reflected Bob.

“We were like a double act at times, he’s my sidekick and I’m his, we’re always by each other’s side as we would often ad-lib our way through a situation or two,” he laughed.

“I wanted to stress to Cleethorpes people, that Jeff, me and any other members of the committee have always paid our own way, whether it be tickets to presentations or travel to meetings etc.

“We receive no financial reward for our efforts, but you can see the satisfaction Jeff gets in his eyes, the joy is there in his face every time In Bloom gets an accolade or praise.

“Jeff was very good with the admin side of the In Bloom work. It was good because he had the time as he had retired from his job,” added Bob.

“It’s been a fantastic journey and that’s because Jeff is a pleasure to be around, he is understanding of people, level-headed and his leadership goes a long way.”

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