Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sandpoint Is a Finalist for America's Coolest Small Town

It is referred to by many here as the “aha!” moment – the time when they cross the long bridge into Sandpoint, take in the view and realize that they have found their new home. The beauty of Lake Pend Oreille surrounded by the mountains is what initially lures many to this resort town. But it doesn’t take long after arriving for people to realize there is much more to this community than its breathtaking views.

The uniqueness of Sandpoint is one reason it is among the finalists for Budget Travel Magazine’s America’s Coolest Small Town’s contest. Of the 147 nominations received, Sandpoint has made the cut to the top 21 towns and currently sits in 10th place. Other communities in the running include Red Lodge, Mont.; the Oregon towns of Sisters and Bandon; Sitka, Alaska; Brevard, N.C.; Cooperstown, N.Y.; Egg Harbor, Wis.; and the current leader, Ely, Minn. The voting will end May 9.

“Being nominated for this award is a privilege for us. We are thrilled so many new people will discover how special our community is and hopefully plan a visit,” said Amy Little, president and CEO of the Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce. “Winning would be an amazing honor for us.”

For Dan and Ruth Wimberly, it was a visit to friends that made them realize that they too wanted to make Sandpoint their home.

After living in Sacramento for 20 years, the couple knew they wanted to leave California as they neared retirement. They had visited Dan’s high school friend Pete Merritt and his wife Barb in Sandpoint several times and grew to love the area.

“It was important for us to live in a town where people are involved with the community, take pride in the community, care about each other and where there are a lot of activities,” said Ruth, who with Dan made the move to North Idaho in April 2006.

During one of their visits, the Merritts took the Wimberlys to a fundraiser put on by the Angels Over Sandpoint. The evening included entertainment and a roast of local restaurateur Jim Lippi. It was there that they witnessed a unique camaraderie and community spirit like they have never seen before.

“The community support, combined with the mountains and the lake, sold us on Sandpoint,” said Ruth. “We never regretted our decision and bless the day that we made the decision to move here.

The Wimberlys echo the sentiment of many when they say that there is no other town this size that can compete with what Sandpoint has to offer.

“The Festival at Sandpoint, the giving nature of the community, the shows, plays and concerts at the Panida, Lost in the ’50s weekend and Schweitzer Mountain – it’s a lot of great things in a small-town package,” said Ruth. “I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”

Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce members are encouraging Sandpoint residents as well as those who visit to show their pride and love for this North Idaho gem and cast their vote for Sandpoint as the Coolest Small Town in America.

Ballots can be cast daily online until May 9. People can also submit images of their favorite, places, events and activities from the Sandpoint area.

Visit to share with others what many already know – Sandpoint is the coolest small town in America.

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