Carroll County's own Sykesville is getting some attention lately after being named a finalist for Coolest Small Town in America.
The competition, which is run every year by Budget Travel magazine, pits towns across the country against each other in online voting.
Sykesville is one of 15 finalists competing for the title, and as of noon Sunday, had taken over first place from Baker City, Oregon, with 36.1 percent of the vote. Other towns in the running include Abingdon, Virginia; Asbury Park, New Jersey; Fairport, New York; and Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Last year's winner was Grand Marais, Minnesota.
Even Gov. Larry Hogan got into the act and voted for Sykesville, posting on his Facebook page to encourage other Marylanders to do the same.
The Times caught up with Steve Colella, Sykesville's director of economic development, to learn more about the competition.
Q: How did this involvement in the competition come about?
A: The competition is an annual contest run by Budget Travel magazine. In 2014, our colleagues in Berlin, Maryland won. This year, we were nominated and were selected out of 140 nominated towns across the country by the editors of Budget Travel to be in the final round, the outcome of which is determined by public voting.
Q: What are Sykesville's chances of winning?
A: Although we are currently behind in the polls, Sykesville firmly holds second place. With a concerted effort on behalf of the residents of the town, county and state, we are confident that we can push through to win the top spot!
A: Currently we have promoted the contest through email blasts, social media, town meetings and announcements and throughout the community. We are planning a party — the Coolest Kickoff Party in America — on June 3 and have invited the Governor and Lieutenant Governor, several members of the Governor's cabinet, and the state delegation from Carroll County to attend. We are confident that this promotional push on the last three days of the contest will help us surge ahead and claim the prize.
The Coolest Kickoff Party will be held [from 6 to 9 p.m.] in front of the French Twist, on Oklahoma Avenue. We'll be shutting down the road and inviting people to bring out blankets and lawn chairs to enjoy music by the stage we'll have set up. We'll also have a beer garden setup in the nearby Centennial Fountain Park.
Q: What are the kinds of things that make a town the coolest small town?
A: The only official criteria in the contest rules was that the town not have been nominated previously and have a population under 20,000 people. But the things that actually make a small town the coolest, and have defined the leaders, are a strong community, great businesses, awesome events and programs, and plenty of ways that people can enjoy visiting, living, and working in the town. This contest resonates with our town because the enhancement of the community to be thriving and vibrant is exactly what we are trying to achieve.
A: There is no physical prize or monetary incentive for winning; however, we would be the only town in the nation to have the bragging rights for the next year, and it would be a permanent commemoration of how far Sykesville has come. From "just another small town" to a nationally recognized community is a pretty big leap. The 10 runners-up in the contest will also be featured in an upcoming issue of Budget Travel magazine.
Q: Who can get involved in helping to make this happen and how?
A: Everyone can get involved in helping Sykesville bring the prize back to Maryland. Anyone with an Internet connection can vote daily — once per IP address, so folks can vote from their computer, from their phone, their tablet, etc. Voting ends June 6, so vote early and often!
We're also looking for promotional ideas, but the clock is ticking away, so we're looking for new ways to get the message out that can be done quickly. And last but not least, everyone is invited to attend our Coolest Kickoff Party in America to help push us ahead in the polls and celebrate the next Coolest Small Town in America.