By GREG RUSSELL, Register Staff Writer
Gainesville Daily Register
Announcement of the “Most Patriotic City in America” was not delivered Monday, despite expectations.
Officials from the “Best of the Road” contest, a collaboration of the Rand McNally Corporation and USA Today magazine, told Gainesville city officials that results would not be available until today or possibly later.
The final answer will conclude a contest participation process that began locally during June. Earlier during 2012, online voters from across the United States took part in a contest that produced six city finalists for the “Most Patriotic” title.
Once contest representatives announced that Gainesville had made the list, city officials scrambled at short notice to organize a two-day slate of patriotic events designed to impress visiting contest judges Rick Griffin and Sandi McKenna. The pair visited Gainesville on July 2-3, and were treated to the spectacle of a children’s bicycle parade, an ice cream social and a tour of city streets adorned with patriotic colors.
Currently, judges Griffin and McKenna are in Seattle, Wash., attending a contest-related convention and considering Gainesville alongside the other finalist towns of Watertown, N.Y., Duluth, Ga., DeLand, Fla., Mandan, N.D., and Enterprise, Ala.
The winning city receives special placement in both Rand McNally atlas publications and global positioning systems. But Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce Lynette Pettigrew said Monday that regardless of who finally gets the official title, her city has amply demonstrated its victory.
“Even if we didn’t win, our community won,” she said. “We showed, and reinforced to our children and residents in our community, what a patriotic town we are. Everybody pulled together at the last minute to make things happen, and were able to show them. They got to feel — and we got to show — the patriotism that we feel 365 days a year.”
Gainesville Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Kent Sharp credited Pettigrew and chamber representative Mandy Davis, who both worked to quickly organize many of the patriotic events. He also said that from an economic standpoint, the national exposure Gainesville has already received can only be helpful, even if the city doesn’t take the title.
“I think it’s a ‘win-win,’ just the exposure we’ve already had from being in the contest and ranking in the top six,” Sharp said Monday. “It brings enough recognition to the city that people are going to stop by.”