BRADENTON -- The rest of the country could soon know just how just how friendly Bradenton really is if they win the "Best of the Road 2013" category for "Friendliest City."
Bradenton is vying for first place in the national contest -- and the Bradenton Area Convention & Visitors Bureau wants the city to make sure of a victory.
The 2013 Best Small Towns Contest is being promoted by Rand McNally, an American publisher of maps and GPS devices. It includes seven categories, and Bradenton was either at the top or close to it in four of them on Wednesday: overall, most beautiful, geocatching -- and Friendliest City. (Geocatching is a modern-day treasure hunt game played by people around the world.)
Residents and visitors alike should vote for Bradenton -- and vote often! urges Kelly Klotz, communications manager for the convention bureau.
"I decided to push it as far as I could," said Klotz. "The more recognition the town can get, the better for us."
Bradenton was entered last year in the contest, but did not win. This year, Rand McNally sent her an email notice reminding her to enter Bradenton in the contest.
The visitor's bureau enlisted the help of the City of Bradenton to get the word out. Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston said it was a easy decision to make.
"It would be a natural for us to win with our Friendly City slogan," said Poston. "We want to make sure people get out and vote."
Bradenton has spread the news of voting on its websites and social networks, and Poston said everyone is excited about it.
To vote you must register with the site, www.bestoftheroad.com, create a username, search for Bradenton under the "Friendliest City" list and vote.
If chosen as a Top 5 finalist, Bradenton will go to the second round of the competition. Each finalist will have to submit a video or picture slide show showing why their city should win. Klotz is encouraging everyone to show the nation how friendly and open Bradenton is.
"We will help in any way possible to get us up to the top of the list," said Klotz.
People can vote once a day until voting ends on Sept. 3. Anyone can vote. Koltz is hoping visitors and snowbirds -- even internationally -- will take part in the voting.
"Anybody can vote anywhere in the world," she said.
Koltz said winning this competition will put a bigger spotlight on the new attractions in Bradenton like the Riverwalk, and will give the local economy a boost because more people will want to visit the friendly town.
"This is a great way for Bradenton to get their name out there and to bring dollars into the community," said Klotz.
The mayor agreed.
"This is another opportunity to show what a great place Bradenton is to live," Poston said.
Janey Tate, city of Bradenton and Palmetto reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041. You can follow her on Twitter at Janey_Tate.