Danville’s looks have garnered some extra attention from the company that now puts towns on more than just its famous maps.
Contestants in Rand McNally’s “Best of the Road Rally” competition will be in town next week to help decide whether Danville will wear the crown as America’s most beautiful small town.
If the “City of Firsts” can finish ahead of the six other finalists, the town will be featured on the bestoftheroad.com website, fellow sponsor USA Today’s travel website, and perhaps the biggest prize of all, the 2014 Rand McNally Road Atlas.
“We won’t know all the specifics until Friday, but we really want people to understand how much potential this has and get excited about it,” said Danville Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Jennifer Kirchner.
According to a news release, a total of about 700 nominees for most beautiful, most patriotic, most fun, best food and friendliest were narrowed to just six in each category by online voting. Danville was the top vote getter in the “most beautiful” category with 2,176 votes.
Teams of two travelers vying for a $10,000 prize, based largely on how well they chronicle their adventures, will tour all six of the finalist cities for a 48-hour period over the next few weeks. The other towns they will visit are Bardstown, Sedona, Ariz., Jim Thorpe, Pa., Baker City, Ore., and Tybee Island, Ga.
On July 15, judges will decide the winning town using the blog posts, video and photos taken by the rally teams, the release said. The judges will announce the winning towns at the Destination Marketing Association International annual convention July 16.
In addition to the Best of the Road RV, the caravan rolling into town next week will include television crews from CBS News and the Travel Channel. CBS will shoot footage for a special on the contest, while the Travel Channel will have a crew filming unique attractions, which Kirchner said could include places like Pioneer Playhouse and the Great American Dollhouse Museum.
It has been confirmed the team will be in Danville next week, but Kirchner is actually hoping to spread the word, and some enthusiasm, about the visit without knowing exactly when it will begin.
The teams are assembling inWashington, D.C., where they find out which category they have been given. They probably will come from Jim Thorpe, Pa., late Tuesday, but their arrival time won’t be known until Friday.
An itinerary is still being worked out for the one day the team will tour the town with local officials as guides. The other day, the team will venture out on their own.
Kirchner has asked the city and county to step up landscaping and other beautification efforts ahead of the visit. She said most businesses already keep a tidy shop, but merchants are encouraged to do anything they can to spruce up their storefronts as well.
“To me, what is beautiful about Danville is the spirit of our people and all those who volunteer their time,” Kirchner said. “We are thinking broadly about ways we can showcase the things we do so well here.”
Other preparations include hanging artwork in empty retail space downtown and possibly putting up a banner welcoming the travelers. Kirchner said a big party is being planned with a southern garden party theme that would include music and lots of local flavor.
“The community came together to win this designation (as a finalist),” Kirchner said. “I’d like to see us come together to finish it and do it right.”
Even if the city is not chosen as the winner in its category, there will be some invaluable exposure. People will be able to follow commentary on the visit to Danville through online posts and social media mentions. There also could be some role in the CBS special and in the Travel Channel show, regardless of the results.
However, being highlighted in the main navigation tool for the nation’s day travelers and cross country road trippers is the kind of recognition that tourism boosters can only dream of.
“Rand McNally sells millions of their atlases every year,” Kirchner said, unable to contain a smile at the thought of having Danville featured in every one of them.
The cash prize up for grabs for the contestants will be awarded based on how well the contestants capture their visit. Judges will look at each team’s creativity and originality, their description of the category they are documenting, number of destinations visited, and the reviews they produce with video, online updates and various forms of social media, the release said. The contestants are:
Fresh Traveler, Patricia Serrano and Anna Haas of New York, N.Y.; Team Two for the Road, Nikki and Dusty Green of Austin, Texas; Road Bros, Brian Cox and Mike Shubic of Phoenix, Ariz.; MidLife Road Trip, Rick Griffin and Sandi McKenna of Tampa, Fla., and Atlanta, Ga., respectively; and Rogue Riders, Jennifer Jordan and Robert Schatz III of Los Angeles, New Orleans and Denver.
For more information on the contest and how to follow the competitors on Facebook and Twitter, visit www.bestoftheroad.com.