Representatives of Houston gather around the grand prize trophy for the community's win in the annual Missouri Community Betterment Awards. The announcement came Monday night in Columbia.

Houston took the top prize Monday night in Missouri’s annual Community Betterment Contest.

A Houston delegation received the grand prize news at the 54th annual Missouri Community Betterment Conference in Columbia. Houston also won first place in its population category and the top prize for community display. Houston’s youth won second place.

Houston vied for honors in its population category during a banquet at the Stoney Creek Hotel and Conference Center. Competing in Houston’s category were Buffalo, St. James, Fayette and Lathrop. Statewide, 23 communities earned visits from judges.

Houston’s win of the Gene Speichinger Community of the Year honor capped a busy year for community organizations.

Two judges toured Houston on Sept. 11 and learned more about projects included in this year’s entry:

• Melba Theatre renovation.

• Houston Community Betterment and Y.O.U.T.H. address numbering project.

• Rutherford Park expansion.

• Creation of Rascalz, a teen club and community center on Grand Avenue.

• Bicycle safety program aimed at elementary students.

Judges wrote: “MCB judges and board members were impressed with Houston’s outstanding ability to utilize various community members’ strengths to accomplish their goals through strategic planning and attention to detail as well as a combined vision. The projects’ impact will be longstanding and benefit all ages within the community as well as those visiting Houston.”

This year’s theme was “Rural Progress and Pride.” The keynote speaker was Deb Brown, who discussed “Rural Innovative Business Models.” Houston volunteers Elaine and Delbert Campbell and Jim and Wilda McNiell organized a game that was part of the program on Sunday night.

Since 1975, Houston has won community recognition 27 times, including first place nine times. In 2004, the town won the grand prize as “Community of the Year.”

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