BUCKHANNON - The city of Buckhannon is in the lead in the first round of voting in this year's annual Coolest Small Town contest.
Sponsored by Budget Travel, the nationwide competition is dedicated to finding the "coolest" small travel destinations in the U.S.
For the past few months, people have had the opportunity to visit the Budget Travel website and cast a daily vote for what they believe is the coolest small town. Buckhannon was in the lead with 3,173 votes as of Monday morning. Its closest competitor is Travelers Rest, S.C., with 2,793 votes.
Upshur County Convention and Visitor's Bureau Executive Director Laura Meadows said she visited the magazine's website and nominated Buckhannon for the 2014 Coolest Small Town competition.
"What really kind of motivated us to be nominated and push the voting process is because Lewisburg and Fayetteville won this (competition) in the past and it's kind of a cool thing to be able to say that your small town is one of the coolest in America," Meadows said.
According to the website, voting has now closed, and the editors of the Budget Travel magazine will review all nominations and select only 15 finalists by mid-January, using the results of the voting process as a guideline. Once those finalists are selected, another round of voting will begin. That round will help the magazine's editors eliminate five more towns from the list of finalists.
According to its website, Budget Travel is looking specifically for towns with a population of less than 10,000 with some feature that makes them unique. That feature could be its food, history, shops, location, art galleries or other one-of-a-kind offerings.
Last year, Lititz, Pa., was named Coolest Small Town by Budget Travel for its farmland, Amish communities, colonial-era history and other features.
If Buckhannon makes it to the next round, it could be one of only 10 small towns to be featured in Budget Travel's magazine and promoted on its website.
"I think that we will have a strong push in the final round of voting," Meadows said.
Meadows imagines what it would be like if Buckhannon makes it into Budget Travel's final top 10 list. She said other travel associations might pay attention to the magazine article or website and then also promote some of the winners.
"It would highlight Buckhannon as a great travel destination, and I think it also would just highlight the entire state of West Virginia," Meadows said.
The website also allowed its visitors to comment publicly about a town. Buckhannon's online thread has 93 comments.
"I have lived in Buckhannon for the last 57 years," Hilda M. Dawson wrote in her comment online. "When you walk down the street, everyone speaks and smiles. We have always had great people and businesses in our town. We have outstanding places to eat and a beautiful college campus."
Meadows wrote that Buckhannon is "the coolest of the cool!" in her comment. She noted the small town atmosphere, specialty shops, local restaurants and activities. She wasn't the only one to mention Buckhannon's atmosphere.
"Buckhannon's historic downtown paints the picture of the perfect small town atmosphere at the turn of the 20th century," Robbie Skinner wrote on the website. "Main Street is lined with many specialty shops, art galleries showcasing works by local artisans, unique restaurants, cafes and an arts theater all complimented (sic) by gorgeous flowers and festive banners. All of these attributes have made Buckhannon the envy of the region."
"Buckhannon has an underground micro-cinema (the Lascaux Micro-Theater) that features foreign and independent films every week - super cool," James Greene wrote in his comment online.
For more information about the Coolest Small Town contest, visit www.budgettravel.com.
Contact Melissa Toothman by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.