By Amy Hubbard
1:45 PM PST, December 12, 2013
The shooting of teenager Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman threw a glaring international spotlight on the city of Sanford, Fla. The city became closely identified with the controversial shooting whose racial overtones riveted the nation.
Now, Sanford is City of the Year.
It's been more than a year and a half since the night when Neighborhood Watch volunteer Zimmerman shot and killed unarmed black teen Martin. And five months since the trial in which Zimmerman was acquitted, sparking outrage in some quarters.
It could be just the time to spit polish the city's image and remind everyone there's more to Sanford than one tragic incident.
The way the city was portrayed in news reports after the shooting wasn't exactly conducive to boosting tourism. Sanford City Manager Norton Bonaparte settled for saying "the media didn't fully portray Sanford."
In an interview Thursday with the Los Angeles Times, Bonaparte said, yes, the city had its share of Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman tourists.
In 2012, he said, "I would not doubt" there were those who visited simply because of the international attention the city gained from the shooting.
But the city, 54,000 strong, has much to offer in its own right, he said. "We do so many activities here" -- festivals and other events that bring people not just to Sanford but also pump up tourism to central Florida, thus the basis of the award.
The newly created honor from the Seminole County Convention & Visitors Bureau is for a city "that has gone above and beyond to promote their city as a destination.""We have a lot of very positive things to show," Bonaparte said. "We would encourage people to come see Sanford for themselves."
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