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Kewanee Named Friendliest Small Town in Rand McNally’s “Best of the Road” Contest

Map publisher Rand McNally handed out its “Best of the Road” awards on October 8, 2013 and Kewanee, Illinois was designated as the friendliest small town in America for 2013. 

The 2013 contest broke all prior records for online participation – including an overall increase in traffic by 45% vs. 2012 – engaging nearly 100,000 individuals who nominated nearly 1,200 towns. 

Kewanee’s nomination came in July shortly after hosting a four day meet during which over 200 wall muralists from around the globe descended on the community and painted 15 historically-themed murals throughout Kewanee’s Downtown.  The muralists, known as the Walldogs, were extremely impressed with Kewanee’s friendliness and gratitude. 

The nomination required two months of online voting, and for finalists such as Kewanee, the submission of a video and an essay highlighting Kewanee’s attributes, along with a concerted social media campaign to attract the attention of the judges. 

“We couldn’t be more pleased with this win,” said Kewanee Mayor Bruce Tossell.  “This is a testament to the residents and their pride in Kewanee.”

Joy Hernandez, a Kewanee hometown girl who works as a Videographer at a CBS TV Station in Indianapolis, led the efforts and served as the key cheerleader for Kewanee.  “We developed a social media presence during the Walldogs Meet and used that to rally the troops” said Hernandez.  “The civic pride that resulted from the Walldogs Meet was in place, the social media network was in place, and a number of key residents and community leaders were ready to go.  Kewanee residents and former residents with a fondness for their hometown stepped up and voted and posted comments like crazy”.

Rebecca Oistad, Vice President for Digital Strategy & Business Development told the Chicago Tribune that “this year’s winners were impressive in terms of the sophistication with which they marketed themselves – including getting their communities engaged in the process – as well in terms of the unique experiences each has to offer.  In reference to Kewanee, Oistad said that the “genuine persuasiveness” of Kewanee’s video stood out.

“All the judges were convinced that it was incredibly heartfelt, and we were really able to get a true sense of the town’s friendly nature,” she said.

As the winner in its category, Kewanee will receive a free custom online travel guide and iPhone app developed by Rand McNally and powered by Best of the Road ®; be featured in Good Sam’s Road Trip Planner, an online tool that helps road trippers organize and plan trips and stops along the way; and be featured in many of Rand McNally’s travel products including RV GPS and the flagship Road Atlas.

Kewanee’s final competitors in its category included Macon, Georgia; Bradenton, Florida; Murray, Kentucky (last year’s winner); and Keokuk, Iowa.

To view Kewanee’s video and essay, click here: