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City makes final round of Downtown Competition

Story by Gordon Dritschilo | Rutland Herald | May 28th, 2019

Downtown Rutland made the Top 10.

The city is a finalist in the Stihl tool company-sponsored “America’s Main Street Contest,” putting Rutland in contention for $25,000 in cash and other prizes such as paint and tools. The city was landed there by online votes, several of which came from a campaign led by Rutland Appliances owner Robert Maguire. Maguire said the comments allowed up to 25 votes from the same IP address, so he and a number of people he knew voted as much as they could.

“I was voting at least 50 times a day,” he said. I could vote from my IP address at work and my IP address at home.”

Such gamesmanship won’t get Rutland all the way, though — a panel of judges decide on which city gets the $25,000.

Maguire said he did not know a lot about Rutland’s competition.

“I’ve been to Saco, Maine, I think,” he said. “I don’t really remember. I think I stayed there at a camps resort with my family. ... I did do a little strategic spying. Canton, Georgia — their campaign for this event is pretty well put together on social media.”

The other finalists are well distributed around the country and are a wide range of sizes.

The biggest is Texarkana, Arkansas, which has 30,000 people but sits at the center of a metropolitan area with an estimated population of 150,000. The smallest is LaBelle, Florida, which has 4,210 people according to the 2010 census and is home to the annual Swamp Cabbage Festival.

Benicia, California, part of the San Francisco Bay area, has 27,000 people and hosts a Peddler’s Fair and a Torchlight Parade. Big Rapids, Michigan, with 10,601 people, is home to Ferris State University. Wellington, Ohio, a village of 4,802, is noted for having been recreated digitally in one of the “The Walking Dead” computer games.

Indiana is the only state with two entries. Logansport, with a population of about 18,000, is the hometown of actor Greg Kinnear. Peru, 11,417, is the location of the International Circus Hall of Fame.

The annual competition is organized by Independent We Stand, a nonprofit promoting small, locally owned businesses.

“Just to be in the Top 10 nationwide for this contest is a big achievement,” Maguire said.

gordon.dritschilo

@rutlandherald.com