Tallahassee named All-America City — again

by Gerald Ensley, Tallahassee Democrat

Once an All-America City. Still an All-America City.

Tallahassee won All-America City honors Sunday night in Denver. Tallahassee also landed the designation in 1999, the only other time it participated in the contest sponsored by the National Civic League.

Tallahassee was the second of 10 cities out of 16 finalists announced as winners during the spirited awards ceremony at the Sheraton Hotel in Denver. The 75-member Tallahassee delegation took the stage shouting “DYG” and “No. 2.”

The Distinguished Young Gentlemen, DYG, were one of the three prongs of Tallahassee’s presentation for All-America City status, along with the building of Cascades Park and the city’s REACH program to lower energy costs for low income residents.

Tallahassee Mayor Gillum said all three projects “spoke for themselves,” and that “judges saw the collaborative work we are doing as a community.”

“But I think the deal was sealed when the judges met our delegation and saw our hearts and saw what motivated us and saw people who truly love the city they live in,” Gillum said. “That makes a difference when you’re competing with so many first class cities.”

Gillum said the city will hold a reception Wednesday at 3 p.m. in City Hall to thank Tallahassee residents and businesses that contributed more than $30,000 for the Tallahassee delegation’s trip. He said a community celebration is being planned for Cascades Park, where the delegation will perform the 10-minute theatrical show they presented to judges on Saturday.

Tallahassee also won the NCL’s “Social Media Award,” for a campaign in which local residents posted photos on social media promoting Tallahassee.

Tallahassee was joined in the winners’ circle by Carson, California; Salinas, California; Stockton, California; Somerville, Massachusetts; Tupelo, Mississippi; Geneva, New York; Marshall, Texas; Spokane, Washington; and Yakima, Washington. Two other Florida finalists, Orlando and North Lauderdale, did not win.

The National Civic League has conducted the All-America City competition since 1949. More than 600 cities have been awarded All-America City status.

Sunday’s award ceremony was a love fest of civic boosterism as speaker after speaker exulted how the competition illustrated the energy and determination of American cities and people.

“You can’t explain this weekend to anyone. You have to experience this weekend,” said Sharon Metz, chair of the 12-person jury that picked the winners. “Once you experience it, go home, do more, do better.”