Mount Airy is the home to North Carolina’s favorite Main Street.
Or so says an online poll conducted by the North Carolina Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA-NC).
The group has been holding an online contest for state residents to vote on their favorite Main Street, and on Tuesday afternoon announced Mount Airy as the top choice among nearly 1,700 votes cast in the survey.
“This is great news for Mount Airy and great publicity to be chosen as the favorite Main Street in North Carolina,” said Jessica Roberts, tourism director for the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center.
Part of the “Great Places in North Carolina” initiative sponsored by the planning association, the contest began with a nomination process in which individuals could send in information about a Main Street they believed was among the best in the state.
A panel chosen by the association selected five such streets, spreading its choices out from the mountains to the coast, and then added additional Main Streets to an online poll contest in which voters could choose the People’s Choice Award for Greatest Main Street.
After all the votes were tallied, Mount Airy stood at the top of the field, edging the coastal community of Southport by just four votes — 487-483.
“A lot of effort was utilized through social media, e-mail blasts … to people we already had as fans of Mount Airy,” Roberts said. “It was a combined effort to get the word out.”
Mayor Deborah Cochran was happy to hear the city had won the contest, and expressed her belief that the recognition would help with tourism efforts.
“Our Main Street is emblematic of traditional values and a simpler time,” the mayor said. “People still say hello and want to visit. This is a tremendous recognition. I’m positive we’ll see more visitors, and I’m proud to call Mount Airy home.”
“We’re going to get some good local recognition and some state recognition as well,” she said. “This is the first year they’ve done this. This (contest) will be a continued effort year after year, for us to be the official first favorite … will continue to bring us attention, to get us good media attention.”
The contest is part of the Great Places in North Carolina program administrated by the planning association.
Those cities chosen as representative of North Carolina Main Street programs prior to the online contest included Asheville’s Lexington Avenue, Charlotte’s Tryon Street, Edenton’s Broad Street, Hillsborough’s Churton Street, and in the category of Great Place in the Making was Gastonia’s Main Avenue.
“All of these Great Main Streets are walkable, interesting, and alive,” said Fleming El-Amin, president of APA-NC. “Through this program, we celebrate their vitality and the local partnerships that have made them a focal point for community life.”
“These places didn’t happen by accident,” said Ben Hitchings, president-elect of APA-NC and chair of the initiative. “We salute the collaborative efforts in each of these communities which resulted in places that people love and cherish.”
Already Roberts said the recognition was paying off, with multiple media outlets calling Tuesday afternoon to highlight the city’s Main Street and the contest.
Roberts said she more or less knew the city had won on Monday evening, when the contest closed at 5 p.m. She said she was watching the online votes being tallied as they came in.
“I watched until 5 o’clock,” she said. “I was posting it all over Facebook pages, Twitter … I would hit refresh and they (Southport) would be ahead, then I would hit refresh and we would be ahead.”
Mount Airy will officially be recognized during a ceremony in town later in May — a date had yet to be finalized.
Reach John Peters at email@example.com or at 719-1931.