For years, the county Clean Sweep has been a highlight of beautification efforts during Spring Cleanup Month every April.

At least until the COVID-19 prompted Eastern Kentucky PRIDE (Personal Responsibility In a Desirable Environment) to postpone the event as originally scheduled last April 22.

Rescheduled for October, the event is not only back but bigger than ever. Redubbed the Somerset-Pulaski County Clean Sweep, the cleanup is evolving into a twice-a-year effort lasting several days and featuring a new component to encourage local students to pick up trash for prizes. The new kick off will be held from October 19 through October 23.

"At SPEDA we are always looking for the silver lining, especially in times like these," SPEDA President and CEO Chris Girdler said. "When the spring cleanup was canceled, we saw it as an opportunity to bring local organizations together and double our efforts in fall and spring to beautify our community."

The fall cleanup for businesses is scheduled for 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, October 20, to pick up litter along U.S. 27, downtown Somerset streets, the Ky. 914 bypass and roadways near industrial parks.

"We're encouraging businesses to come out and clean up our roadsides," Pulaski County Solid Waste/Recycling Coordinator advised Fiscal Court on Tuesday, adding the date is just before the final Somernites Cruise of the season. "We're hoping to make Somerset look a little better since we've missed out on a lot of cleaning."

.While it has been successful over the years and remains a vital part of the Clean Sweep, this year's organizers wanted to find a way for young people to get involved in being good stewards of the environment.

The result is the Triple Bag Challenge, a week-long contest for all elementary through high school students living in Somerset and Pulaski County. During the week of Oct. 19-23, students are invited to pick up three bags of trash from roadways in the community for a chance to win one of several prizes -- including an Xbox, gift cards, gas cards, and two passes to SomerSplash Waterpark.

To participate, students must first register with Eastern KY PRIDE, then post before and after photos of their cleanup efforts to Facebook and/or Instagram using #spctriplesweep (parents can post for students who do not have social media access). Winners will be chosen at random.

Adding this component to the Clean Sweep makes an already flourishing community event have an even larger impact -- one that is extremely important in a community where tourism is its largest industry, Girdler said.

"Eastern KY PRIDE is an outstanding partner and does excellent work executing programs that promote beautification," Girdler said. "SPEDA is honored to help lead this effort with PRIDE in partnership with a great team of dedicated organizations. We want to ensure we are doing all we can as a community to make great impressions on our visitors, teach our children and youth the importance of taking care of our environment and promote personal responsibility."

The Somerset-Pulaski County Clean Sweep is PRIDE's largest event across 42 counties, with more than 1,000 people participating annually. Eastern KY PRIDE President and CEO Tammie Nazario said the organization is excited to bring the community together for this worthwhile cause.

"Volunteers have told us they missed the spring cleanup events that were canceled due to the pandemic, so I expect many people will be anxious for this chance to get outside and accomplish something together," Nazario said. "October is a scenic time in our area, so this cleanup will be well-timed to welcome tourists driving here to enjoy our fall colors. I want to thank SPEDA for its leadership, as well as the other partners who are making this possible."

Somerset-Pulaski County Clean Sweep partners also include Lake Cumberland Tourism, the City of Somerset Tourism, Waste Connections, the Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce, the Pulaski County Recycling Center, and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

Businesses that want to register for the Oct. 20 roadway cleanup should contact Eastern KY PRIDE at (606) 677-6150 or pride@centertech.com.

Employees can volunteer anytime between the hours of 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. that day and leave bags along the side of the road for the highway department to pick up. PRIDE will orchestrate getting the necessary materials to each business prior to Oct. 20.

PRIDE will also have a registration table set up from 8:30 a.m. to noon Oct. 20 in front of The Center for Rural Development for anyone who wishes to participate in the cleanup but is not affiliated with a particular business.

Students who want to participate in the Triple Bag Challenge should also contact PRIDE. Parents will be asked to sign a waiver, and contest rules will be shared at that time.

For more information, call (606) 677-6150 or email pride@centertech.com.

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