Community Excellence Award

Over the years, the Community Excellence Award has evolved into an outstanding showcase for place-based projects and initiatives that are transforming communities and creating positive socio-economic impact.

During the first round of the Community Excellence Award “Race for the Cup,” communities now give a simple five-minute “elevator-style” talk during their Regional Roundtable at the League’s Capital Conference.

Then the seven region finalists go on to the final round at the League’s Annual Convention. That’s where they pull out all the stops for the kind of high-quality, entertaining production that’s become such a highlight of the Annual Convention.

Here are some examples of past Final Round presentations, presented in alphabetical order by community. We’ve also included some outstanding first-round entries from earlier years before the competition’s format was changed.

Allegan 2009 Only One Allegan

The city designed a community marketing campaign to recruit and encourage individuals to live in Allegan.

Belding 2013 Community Garden
In June of 2010, the “idea seed” was planted to start a community garden in Belding. The Community Garden Group, in affiliation with Belding Area Schools and the city of Belding, built the garden in the spring of 2012. The garden is accessible to all residents of Belding and surrounding areas. It provides social, educational, and nutritional opportunities to those who may not otherwise have access. At every level the garden is truly “community”—from resident/family, school spaces, and a food pantry garden—everyone has a space to come sow, plant, and harvest!

Brighton 2007 Mayor’s Commission on Public Art


The project is a cultural tourism initiative, with a 27 piece sculpture exhibition integrated into the walkways of downtown Brighton.

Clare 2011 Cops & Doughnuts
The Clare Bakery, a foundation business for the city, had been in operation since 1896. When it was in danger of closing, the Clare Police Department banded together to save this historic business.

DeWitt 2013 Community Showcase
The 1st Annual 2012 DeWitt Community Showcase was held in DeWitt in April of 2012. This event is the true definition of collaboration in the finest form. The event featured the collaboration of three different jurisdictions: the city of DeWitt, DeWitt Township, and DeWitt Public Schools. The event was held at the DeWitt High School and was an exposé for area businesses, students, and community civic groups to show off to the community what they had to offer. The event was free for all that participated and featured a “Taste of DeWitt,” student art pieces, student performances, and exhibits by over 100 area businesses and civic groups. The event was attended by well over 2,000 residents!

East Lansing 2010 Technology Innovation Center
east lansing

The Technology Innovation Center is a facility which provides space and resources to start-up technology businesses.

Fenton, Holly, Linden 2013 Shiawassee River Heritage Water Trail
The Shiawassee River Heritage Water Trail represents intergovernmental cooperation, recreational opportunities, and economic development. Spearheaded by Headwaters Trails, Inc., and supported by Keepers of the Shiawassee, we have seen increased recreational activity on the Shiawassee River over the last decade. A series of promotional signs in Holly, Fenton, Linden, and Argentine and Holly Townships; mile markers along the river to inform paddlers of their location, promotional brochures, annual cleanups, canoe and kayak races from Holly to Fenton, moonlight paddle events, and many more activities have all led to increased usage of the river system by local residents and visitors.

Ironwood 2013 Depot Park Revitalization
The city of Ironwood’s placemaking effort is centered on the revitalization of a railroad depot into a park. The plan is to merge city blocks, add a pavilion, playground equipment, landscaping, volleyball courts, and other amenities in an effort to promote health, history, and recreation. The park will also serve as a trail head for non-motorized trails crossing the region.

Jackson 2008 Armory Arts Village

The city transformed an old prison site into an artist colony. Former cell blocks have been remodeled, modernized, and turned into live-work space for artists and their families.

Ludington 2011 New Year’s Eve Ball Drop

In an effort to boost winter activities, the city’s started a New Year’s Eve Ball Drop. The event grew quickly and now attracts thousands of people.

Marquette 2009 Waterfront Safety Initiative

After four drowning deaths in one summer, Marquette responded by developing a waterfront safety initiative. Multiple safety efforts are underway.


Mason 2010 New City Hall


After a two day visioning process to guide them, the city built a new municipal building. The old one was overly cramped and leaky—just a few of its problems.

Monroe 2010 River Raisin Battlefield

Monroe transformed a city entryway from a blighted industrial site into the River Raisin Battlefield National Park. It is the site of a significant battle during the War of 1812 and later housed a paper mill.

Mt Pleasant 2009 Borden Creamery Restoration
mt pleasant

The city replaced a vacant, crumbling creamery located at the entrance to downtown with a state-of-the-art structure that houses various tenants, including the city.

Paw Paw 2011 Uncork Paw Paw

Building on its identity as a wine country destination, Paw Paw launched a regional promotional campaign, including a support system for both new entrepreneurship and existing businesses.



Rogers City 2013 Dancin’ Downtown
In 2012, many exciting new businesses opened in Rogers City utilizing approximately 10 percent of existing store fronts and buildings. The streetscape has been upgraded with sophisticated new LED lighting, new ADA ramps, new flower baskets, way-finding signage, and other amenities. Not only is the downtown more beautiful, but it is coming alive with activities: a new Museum Annex, new recreational trails and pocket parks, several new library programs, and two new public art projects. As many as 100 new jobs (in a city of 2,782 people) are being created via new cooperative economic development efforts between city and county governments and private businesses. Social life is groovin’ and growing in Rogers City!

Saginaw 2010 Green Team

A Saginaw recycling program initiated by city employees dramatically reduced landfill waste in just two months. It is run by an interdepartmental team of committed employees.

St Joseph 2007 Art on the Beach
st joseph

The city partnered with its local arts council to create a public art display to put energy back into its downtown. The annual project attracts out-of-town visitors and has increased downtown traffic.

St Joseph 2013 Silver Beach Development
For many decades vacant property and antiquated industrial buildings dotted the city’s lakefront. In 2006, the Silver Beach Committee was formed to acquire the property and create a “WOW” factor. On January 2, 2010, after seven years of planning and fundraising, the community christened Silver Beach which includes the Silver Beach Carousel, the Curious Kids’ Discovery Zone, and Michigan’s largest interactive water fountain. Thanks to the generosity of the community, Whirlpool, and several local families, over $8,200,000 was raised to privately fund the project. Today, Silver Beach Center is a mecca for tourists and locals who want to create memories.

Southfield 2011 Field Zone Youth Center

The Center provides an after school place for youth to showcase their talent in leadership, recreation, creativity, community involvement, academics, technology, arts, and music.

Tecumseh 2010 Photo Essay of Tecumseh: A Kid’s Perspective

Tecumseh embarked on an innovative program to solicit input from the city’s youth by putting cameras in their hands and asking them to take pictures of what they like and dislike about their community.

Vassar 2011 Chill on the Hill

Chill on the Hill is a unique winter sledding event and festival with a 1,000-foot-long sledding hill through the heart of downtown Vassar.


West Branch 2011 Fabulous Fridays

Fabulous Fridays cranked up West Branch’s economy with themed events in the downtown. More than 14,000 people attended over the last three summers and business is up 10-15 percent annually.

west branch

Entry Process

cea1.) Register
Click here for the online Community Excellence Award entry form.

2.) Prepare Entry
Prepare a five (5) minute verbal “elevator pitch” style presentation. Optional:  Bring a 2 x 3 ft display board of your project/initiative; we will display it on an easel during the meeting.

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