“People’s” Monte Cristo
Awards revives event canceled by city
EVERETT — A dedicated cadre of volunteers are preparing to raise the roof at the city’s Monte Cristo awards for extraordinarily well kept homes on Oct. 25.
The event almost didn’t happen. Nominations for the 24th annual citywide celebration were already coming in when the city decided to cancel it as a budget cut in the spring.
The Monte Cristos cost approximately $5,000 and 200 hours in staff time. The city-funded event was a casualty of a mayoral directive to decrease a projected $13 million 2019 deficit.
But disappointing dozens of homeowners was not an option for a team of volunteers from Everett’s Council of Neighborhoods.
“There’s a lot of passion among the folks on the Monte Cristo” committee, said Jim Grieco, of the Cascade View and Twin Creeks Neighborhood Association. “We are the heart and soul of that, so not just myself but a majority of the council said ‘we can do this.’”
And do this they have, mastering the many moving parts it takes to visit and evaluate nominated homes, source supplies, recruit volunteers, and host hundreds of homeowners at a one-of-a-kind soiree.
It helps that the group had practice. Volunteers had reviewed nominees, helped at the celebration and other integral tasks since the city began sharing responsibilities several years ago said Michael Trujillo, who chairs the Cascade View and Twin Creeks Neighborhood Association.
The night is worth saving not only for its own sake volunteers say, but for the way it motivates residents to maintain beautiful neighborhoods. They agree it just wouldn’t be as meaningful if the awards were handed out at each neighborhood’s meetings.
Andrea Tucker, a real estate agent and chair of the Port Gardner Neighborhood says homes that have won the prestigious awards stand out to local buyers. Even out of towners quickly learn what a point of pride it is to buy into a home that boasts a Monte Cristo.
So choosing this year’s 60-plus winners was a serious undertaking: She drove to more than 130 nominated properties personally to take photographs for the group.
She’ll never forget one woman inviting her in: after receiving kudos on the exterior, she wanted Tucker to see the heart of her home, a wall of awards honoring her son, a veteran who was severely injured during his service.
The Monte Cristo nominees “are always so happy and proud and it’s such a great event for the residents, and that’s our point,” Tucker said.
Homeowners can win in four categories: Green Gardening; Pride of the Neighborhood; Rejuvenation and Transformation and The Marian Krell Award. The last honors a prior award recipient who has maintained Monte Cristo standards for many years. Businesses can also win in a Neighborhood Friendly Business category.
The city has scaled back but not eliminated support, providing funding for invitations and award plaques as well as some administrative assistance and a planning timeline.
Volunteers had to find a venue, recruit an emcee, arrange the musicians and cater refreshments.
Even the slideshow is complex, containing 79 slides with meticulously organized photos of each location.
Finding a venue was made easier by a donation from Curt Shriner, manager of the Historic Everett Theatre, who donated the space.
“There are certain events in town that are community events and they shouldn’t go away because of money so if I have the ability” to keep them going I will, Shriner said.
But when the hundreds of hours of labor are through–at least until next year– the hard-working volunteers will have their reward. “My favorite part is the night of, seeing all those excited folks getting their awards and all the volunteers’ work come to fruition,” Grieco said.
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