For Rockland, second place is just cool enough

Posted April 16, 2009, at 10:02 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — OK, maybe Rockland isn’t technically America’s Coolest Small Town, after placing second in Budget Travel magazine’s online poll.

That honor went to Owego, N.Y., a Finger Lakes region village that received 24,692 votes to Rockland’s 23,261.

But Rockland is still plenty cool enough, say its advocates, who are thrilled with the local and national attention the community received during the 2½-month contest, the results of which were released Wednesday.

That attention included about 15 seconds of fame on Wednesday’s CBS “Early Show,” during which Budget Travel magazine’s editor revealed that Rockland was “a personal favorite.”

“You can’t buy that kind of advertising,” said Shari Closter, interim executive director of the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber received some phone calls Wednesday after prospective tourists saw the segment on CBS, she said.

Capt. Brenda Thomas sails the schooner Isaac H. Evans out of the harbor here, and she nominated Rockland for the honor last year.

“I’m absolutely not disappointed,” she said of the second-place finish. “We know that we’re the coolest small town. First or second, it doesn’t matter.”

Gov. John Baldacci even got involved in Rockland’s quest, proclaiming April 1 to be the “Make Rockland the Coolest Small Town in America Day.”

For Thomas, the exposure just means that more people might have the chance to enjoy some of the things she loves about Rockland — including spending some time on the ocean.

“It’s been a long winter,” she said. “After eight weeks of spring outfitting, I’m anxious to go sailing.”

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