Congratulate Duluth’s hard-working civic boosters. Their online voters swarmed a national outdoors magazine website to win the crown of Best Town in America on Sunday night.
Duluth bested Provo, Utah to gain the title from Outside Magazine by a vote of 66,758 to 54,875.
It was a social media-boosted contest that had even Gov. Mark Dayton and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken urging Twitter followers to vote for Duluth last week.
Spurred by a #VoteDuluth campaign and website, the city routinely got more votes than any other of the 64 cities originally competing through six rounds of bracket-style face offs that began last month.
As the votes continued to climb Sunday, Mayor Don Ness all but declared victory several hours before the contest ended. Ness acknowledged that title was just an online popularity contest, but credited a change in attitude for the win.
“This contest has been an effective measure of city pride and enthusiasm and people invest in cities that they are confident and optimistic about – they invest in their home, their business, their own skill sets, their careers, etc.,” Ness wrote on his Facebook page Sunday evening, well before the contest ended at 10:59 p.m. Central Time.
For too long, Ness wrote, pessimism hung over the city, with people too ready to accept that Duluth would never reach its potential.
“Is this change real?” Ness continued. “Ask yourself this question…. Do you think Duluth could have won this contest 20 years ago?”
In earlier rounds, Duluth beat out Columbia, Mo; Athens, Ohio; LaCrosse, Wis., Minneapolis and Asheville N.C.
Outside magazine asked voters which town was the best place to live if they love an active lifestyle. Duluth's boosters posted photos of Lake Superior and promoted the area's range of opportunities for activities including hiking, biking, kayaking and skiing. VoteDuluth touted the town’s “outdoor adventures within the city limits.”