Baker a beauty finalist again

Written by Terri Harber May 30, 2012 09:03 am

By TERRI HARBER

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Baker City has a second chance to be recognized as the most beautiful small town in the nation.

For the second time in two years the Rand McNally and USA Today Best of the Road contest organizers will send judges here to help determine whether the city indeed is most beautiful.  

Here’s this year’s lineup of communities vying for the title:

• Baker City

• Bardstown, Ky.

• Danville, Ky.

• Jim Thorpe, Pa.

• Sedona, Ariz.

• Tybee Island, Ga.

Online voting shaped the lists of finalists and ended on May 16. Baker City received 416 votes as Most Beautiful; 36 votes as Friendliest; six votes as Most Fun; and, two votes as Best for Food.

Within the “Most Beautiful” category, Danville, Ky., garnered the most online votes overall with 2,176.

Last year’s judges who came to Baker City, Dan and JoAnne Schaub, also known as the McNavigators, were given a whirlwind tour.

The pair considered our landscapes, historic district—which they took in while riding a tandem bicycle—and our community’s warmth and enthusiasm as some of the most attractive features.

Ultimately, the winner last year was Sandpoint, Idaho. While Baker City wasn’t dubbed the most beautiful small town, the exposure was of substantial benefit to the region, according to a local tourism professional.

“We saw a tremendous impact last year when Baker City was named a finalist for most beautiful small town, both from the local community, and in increased visitor numbers,” said Timothy Bishop, Baker County marketing director. 

And this year some other nearby areas have been nominated: The Hells Canyon Scenic Byway as best scenic byway and the Sumpter Dredge State Park as best state park.

“We are very excited to see Baker City nominated again and to have two other Baker County attractions vying for recognition this year,” Bishop said.

The organizers call this year’s event a “Washington to Washington” tour. On June 15, teams of judges will leave Washington, D.C., to visit each of the communities vying for the respective categories. They end their journeys in Seattle, Wash., on July 15.

Bishop said the judges’ upcoming visit will be structured differently from last year’s. They’ll spend one day escorted by locals and the next day will be on their own.

Before they leave the area, Bishop said, “we’re hoping they’ll get to see Sumpter and Hells Canyon.”

Part of the journey for the judges is to visit other locations along the way and blog about their thoughts and experiences, he said.

The winners will be included in the 2014 Rand McNally Road Atlas.

The judging teams also are competing among themselves. One of the teams also will win $10,000 for submitting the best content about their experiences as well as helping determine which communities win top honors.

Each team visits the six towns in their assigned category as followers monitor their activities on USA TODAY Travel, bestoftheroad.com, Facebook and Twitter.

Bishop said he and other local officials will begin later this week putting together a team of planners and volunteers. Contact Bishop at 541-523-1589 for details.