BELLOWS FALLS -- Roger Riccio liked the village when he visited while on vacation nearly 12 years ago.
He liked it a lot.
So much, in fact, that he bought a house while still on vacation and has lived in Bellows Falls ever since he moved from Redding, Calif.
His love of the village led Riccio, now the director of the Great Falls Regional Chamber of Commerce, to apply for nomination to win Bellows Falls the title of "Prettiest Painted Place in America," a competition sponsored by the Paint Quality Institute. He hoped others would see the beauty he saw more than a decade ago, but the village was excluded from the list of 10 finalists from the Northeast. Chester and Stowe also entered the competition but the former was the only Vermont town to crack the region’s top 10.
Riccio said he is disappointed his village missed out but said Chester, which his chamber of commerce covers, is also a very pretty town and is deserving of the distinction.
"I’m heartbroken Bellows Falls didn’t make it into the top 10, but in my opinion, it’s still No. 1," he said.
Riccio said he stumbled across the competition on the Internet and decided to apply. He went around the village and took various photographs, sending along 19 of them to the Paint Quality Institute. He said there are 200 nominees but thinks his village can hold its own.
"Bellows Falls is a very beautiful village," he said.
He said the village is beautifully painted and has wonderful houses and architecture.
"We have different styles over 200 years old. It’s very unique," he said. "Things like that don’t stand the test of time like they have in Bellows Falls."
Judges with expertise in color selection, exterior painting, and home improvement reviewed the entries, conducted additional research and made selected site visits. The 12 prettiest places will be revealed in mid-October.
Over the years the village has developed somewhat of a negative reputation and there are a number of buildings that have recently been under investigation by Health Officer Ellen Howard and the Bellows Falls Village Board of Trustees. But Riccio said he doesn’t think these cases take away from the village’s beauty as a whole.
"You can’t live anywhere where there isn’t a run-down house," he said. "I’ve seen more and more people take pride in their homes here."
The Paint Quality Institute has conducted this competition twice before, most recently in 2000. It says the purpose is to vividly show how an attractive paint color scheme can greatly enhance the "curb appeal" of any structure’s exterior.
"We feel there is no better way to demonstrate the importance of exterior paint color than to focus on these beautiful real-world communities that take so much pride in their appearance," said Debbie Zimmer, paint and color expert at the Paint Quality Institute. "The places involved in our competition are a tremendous inspiration to us all, and by giving them recognition, we hope to instill in the public a better appreciation for the role exterior paint can play in protecting and enhancing the appearance of any home or building."
Nominees for the honor range from famous locations such as Napa, Calif., and Cape Cod to little-known places like Bell Buckle, Tenn.
The names and locations of all of the nominees are posted on the Paint Quality Institute website at blog.paintquality.com.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.