PORT ANGELES — Leslie Kidwell Robertson isn’t intimidated that Port Angeles is now facing Chattanooga, Tenn., in the hotly competitive national contest to be Outside magazine’s “Best Town Ever” for 2015.
“Chattanooga may be big, but they are certainly not the best,” says Robertson.
She is the founder of Revitalize Port Angeles, a Facebook group with more than 1,100 enthusiastic members that has been cheerleading Port Angeles’ Cinderella-like triumphs in the competition since it began May 4.
“Port Angeles is like no other place in the world,” she adds, “and we need to spread that message far and wide.”
After besting five other towns, Port Angeles, population 19,000, now challenges Chattanooga, population more than 173,000, for the national title.
Online voting has been underway since Thursday night, and the victor will be the town that gets the most votes by
9 p.m. PDT June 4.
EDITOR’S NOTE — To vote, go to http://tinyurl.com/pdn-best. You can also get current vote totals there.
Online voting now underway between Port Angeles and Chattanooga runs until 8:59 p.m. Thursday, June 4.
There is no money or prizes for the winner — but plenty of bragging rights. Plus a splashy, tourist-drawing profile for the winner in September’s edition of Outside, a nationally recognized outdoor and adventure magazine.
The other 15 finalists in the contest will be featured either in the September magazine or on the magazine’s website. One voter will win a trip to the No. 1 town.
This is the Outside’s fifth annual “Best Town” contest, and previous winners — Chattanooga is one of them, the winner in 2011 — say the “Best Town” title has resulted in more tourism for them — and calls from businesses that want to relocate to their towns.
And Chattanooga — which calls itself the Scenic City — wants the crown back.
“Only a tiny Northwest city stands between Chattanooga reclaiming the top spot it held three years ago,” the Chattanooga Times Free Press told its readers.
“Chattanooga had to sit out the contest after that win, for three years, a rule Outside’s editors set ‘to make room for hidden gems, underdogs, and towns on the rise.’”
Revitalize Port Angeles has inspired social media campaigns, in-town “Vote PA!” signs and high-five camaraderie as residents across the rural, 98,000-pop. North Olympic Peninsula push for Port Angeles to go all the way and win the title championship on June 4.
Robertson and her partisans have used online posters of Bigfoot urging votes for Port Angeles, gorgeous photos of the area’s mountains, lakes and oceanfront, and a constant flow of Facebook messages to get out the vote nationally.
The state’s two U.S. senators, Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, and local congressman Derek KIlmer have gone to their Twitter feeds to urge votes for Port Angeles.
Chattanooga’s effort has been pushed by city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, with tweets, emails and sponsored Facebook advertisements from boosters and celebrities ranging from Rock/Creek, the popular outdoor clothing/gear company based in Chattanooga, to U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.
The Lamp Post Group, a business venture incubator, emailed this message to locals:
“ATTN: Chattanooga, we’re up for Best Town Ever again! But to get the belt a second time, we need your help. Go vote!”
‘WE DESERVE TO WIN’
“We’ve worked so hard to make it to the final round, and we have earned this spot by coming together as a community,” said Robertson in a message to Port Angeles supporters.
“This next round is going to the hardest one by far, but I know we can do this. We need to show everyone why we deserve to win this contest.
“Sign up for Twitter if you haven’t already, keep sharing those pictures on Facebook, and do everything you can to show everyone that Port Angeles truly is the Best Outdoor Town ever!”
Outside magazine’s contest is set up with brackets modeled on the NCAA “March Madness” basketball tournament, with an original field of 64 towns — or cities in many cases, Las Vegas and New York City among them (they were destroyed in early rounds) — seeded into four geographic regions.
They were then pared down in five rounds as towns with the most votes advanced.
In the Final Four semifinals which ended Thursday night, Port Angeles, the West division champ, dispatched Bar Harbor, Maine, the East division champ, with a 6,350 vote margin.
The count was 22,494, or 58.22 percent of the vote, for Port Angeles, and 16,144, or 41.78 percent, for Bar Harbor.
Chattanooga, the South division champ, beat Eau Claire, Wis., the Midwest champ. Chattanooga had a 4,558 vote margin over Eau Claire — 30,106, or 54.09 percent of the vote, to 25,548, or 45.91 percent.
Outside magazine says the best town in America in 2015 is “the kind of place with top-notch restaurants, vibrant farmers markets, friendly neighborhoods and unparalleled access to hiking and biking trails and public lands and, of course, a good beer scene — in short, the perfect jumping-off point for adventure.”
Chattanooga, the No. 1 seed in the South, also beat Roanoke, Va., Raleigh-Durham, N.C., Beaufort, S.C., and Boone, N.C., to make the final showdown.
It has received tens of thousands more votes in its competitions so far than the total Port Angeles has tallied.
But as its past opponents learned, you should never underestimate Port Angeles.
It was a wild-card entrant that won its way into the contest at the last minute based on Instagram votes, beating out 104 other towns and getting a No. 16 seed in the West.
And unlike the NCAA, where a No. 16 seed has never beaten a No. 1 seed, Port Angeles began the competition by upsetting Santa Barbara, Calif., the No. 1 seed in the West, by a 28-vote margin in the first round.
Port Angeles then edged a sibling just to its south, the Kitsap County city of Bainbridge Island, in the second round (by 296 votes); knocked off the Colorado resort town of Glenwood Springs (by 488 votes) in the third round; and polished off the West’s No. 2 seed, Flagstaff, Ariz. (1,336 votes), in the fourth round.
Now Port Angeles is the West division champion — and one of two towns still standing after 62 others were eliminated.
HOW THE CITIES ARE DESCRIBED
Outside has this description at its contest website for Chattanooga:
House Price: $138,100
Since Chattanooga won our Best Town award in 2011, its farm-to-table restaurant scene and whiskey distillery movement have boomed.
As for the world-class rock climbing at Foster Falls, mountain bike trails, and Class IV and V rapids on the Ocoee? Well, those haven’t changed.
The magazine describes Port Angeles like this:
House Price: $201,900
On one side of town, you’ve got Olympic National Park — nearly 1,500 square miles of wilderness for hiking, rafting, and camping.
On the other side is the Strait of Juan de Fuca, where you can hop into a sea kayak to paddle the Whale Trail.
And right in town? Easy access to the Olympic Discovery Trail for more than 60 miles of running or cycling.
PDN Publisher-Editor John Brewer can be reached at 360-417-3500 or firstname.lastname@example.org.