Participants encouraged to "Embrace Diversity" for 2019 Garbage Can Decorating Competition

Stratford's ninth annual Garbage Can Decorating Competition is officially underway. Submissions are due by 9 p.m. April 23, and judging will take place at 11 a.m. April 24.

Stratford's 9th annual Garbage Can Decorating Competition officially commenced under the theme of "Embracing Diversity" Thursday morning. Pictured are garbage can decorating committee members Kirk Riehl, James Colbeck, Carys Wyn Hughes, and MJ Thomson. Missing from the photo are committee members Brenda Cotes and Elizabeth Cawley. Galen Simmons/The Beacon Herald/Postmedia Network

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This year’s Stratford Garbage Can Decorating Competition is all about celebrating the things that set us apart.

Though they had already delivered the majority of their 50-gallon drums to competitors, members of the garbage can decorating committee officially launched the city’s ninth annual garbage can decorating competition Thursday morning under the theme, “Embracing Diversity.”

“Embracing Diversity can be many things,” said MJ Thomson, property manager of the Festival Marketplace Shopping Centre and one of the people who have organized the competition since it first began. “It can be about people, it can be about plant life, it can be about agriculture. I mean diversity is a word that covers a broad spectrum of things. It covers everything.

“So we thought ’embracing diversity’ could be an artistic thing that people could literally embrace, and choose whatever form of diversity is important to them.”

Whether that diversity stems from ethnicity, culture, gender identity, religion, or anything else that makes a competitor or team of competitors unique, Thomson said she and her committee want to see diversity represented and celebrated on each submission.

This year, individuals or teams can compete in the residential, school, church, non-profit, and business categories, as well as in the new, service-group category.

As it has in the past, the committee has partnered with the city’s parks board to provide 25 empty, 50-gallon drums. Committee members then coated the drums in a layer of white paint before making them available to those competing in the school, business, and service-club categories.

As of Thursday morning, when the competition officially began, Thomson said Community Living Stratford and Area, one of the competition’s partner organizations, had already delivered 19 of the 25 available drums to those who wanted to get a head start on the competition.

Once the competition is over, all completed drums will be displayed in Queen’s Park throughout the spring, summer and fall, after which they will be available for pickup by those who decorated them.

A limited supply of 20-gallon garbage cans are also available for a $10 deposit to those competing in the residential, business, non-profit, and service-club categories. Those who decorate the 20-gallon cans will be able to take them home with them once judging is complete and awards have been handed out at the end of April.

All submissions must be dropped off at the Festival Marketplace Shopping Centre by 9 p.m. on April 23. Judging will take place at 11 a.m. April 24, and winners will be announced at a special ceremony on April 26 at 4:30 p.m.

This year’s guest judges are artist and former Stratford Northwestern Secondary School art teacher Valerie O’Flynn, professional photographer and former Beacon Herald reporter Scott Wishart, and Dr. Gezaghn Wordofa, founder of the Multicultural Association of Perth Huron.

For more information on the competition and to download registration forms, visit Registration forms are also available at the customer service booth in the Festival Marketplace Shopping Centre.

As it does every year, the committee is also hosting a Spring Break garbage can decorating workshop for kids at 1 p.m. on March 11 at the Festival Marketplace Shopping Centre. To register, visit

Stratford’s annual garbage can decorating competition is made possible by Festival Marketplace Shopping Centre, the civic beautification and environmental awareness committee, the communities in bloom committee, and Community Living Stratford and Area.