BERLIN — Short of a dark horse effort, Budget Travel’s Coolest Small Town 2014 has become a two-town race with Berlin still leading the way.
Berlin has been leading the final round of voting since the end of January, but Cazenovia, N.Y. has surged in the last week to within striking distance of the lead.
As of Thursday morning, Berlin held a thin lead of 3.3 percent over Cazenovia, 24.2-percent to 20.9-percent. Though there was some early pressure from towns like Buckhannon, W.Va. and Mathews, Va., Berlin and Cazenovia have eaten up most of the votes, causing the rest of the field to fall back and given both frontrunners a roughly 10-percent lead over the next closest town.
“The Cool Berlin is gaining a lot of steam,” said Michael Day, director of Economic and Community Development, at Tuesday’s Town Council meeting. “We’ve got a little competition, but we’re still three points ahead as of tonight at 7 p.m. when the meeting started. And we’re starting to get a lot of state support from the tourism office, the department of business and economic development, the department of housing and community development. They’re all posting it.”
The support for Berlin as the Coolest Small Town has been coming in from all angles, including other towns on the Eastern Shore and even across the bridge.
“It was such a pleasant surprise when making these announcements how many people already knew about it. That kind of makes your day,” said Mayor Gee Williams.
Day pointed out that it only makes sense for all of Maryland, and the Eastern Shore in particular, to get behind Berlin since the publicity brought by a first-place finish in the Coolest Towns contest would act as excellent marketing, bringing more visitors to the area.
Even with so much of the state behind Berlin, Cazenovia’s meteoric rise has turned the race into an unexpected barnburner.
“We are very nervous over how tight the race is,” said Lisa Challenger, director of Tourism for Worcester County. “It’s so important for people to remember to vote every day. We don’t want to hear, ‘oh, I forgot.’ We want people voting every day and telling their friends to vote every day.”
Cazenovia sprinting into a close second from the middle of the pack has also raised a few eyebrows. While Berlin made a similar jump in popularity to finish third in the preliminary voting round, it took an effort of weeks. Cazenovia repeating the trick in a matter of days from seemingly out of nowhere has generated a lot of questions.
“We were all suspicious about Cazenovia’s quick rise to the top,” said Challenger, “and we voiced our concerns to Budget Travel. They’ve assured us that everyone is playing fair.”
Heading into the final stretch, the town and county don’t want to take any chances. Berlin’s lead clearly shows that people have been voting en mass, but due to the length of the contest, voter fatigue is a possibility before the end date of Feb. 25. To combat that, Worcester has announced a contest within a contest: Berlin’s Golden Opportunity competition encourages people to vote for the town and to craft a short post on Worcester’s Beach and Beyond Facebook page describing why they think Berlin is cool.
The five comments with the most likes will move to a final round where they will be reviewed by a panel of judges with the winner taking home a prize pack, including a Seacrets Gold Card.
For more information check out www.visitworcester.org or to vote for Berlin directly visit www.coolberlin.org