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Thursday, Jan. 10, 2008

Name the Best Communities in Wisconsin

The voting begins now

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Happy New Year! Once again, it’s time to vote. In 2007 thousands of people voted in the Traveling Shepherd’s search for the “Wonders of Wisconsin” and selected winners in 21 categories. (You can find the complete list at www.wondersofwisconsin.com.)

This year we’ve decided to ask for your help in sorting out the best Wisconsin communities in 21 categories.

For the purpose of this contest we’re defining communities as cities, towns or villages that are listed on the Official Wisconsin Highway Map (available free at Wisconsin Travel Information Centers, many convention bureaus and attractions statewide) and have a population of less than 15,000. This means Beaver Dam at 14,196 is eligible, as is Yuba, with a population of 77. Sorry, Wisconsin Rapids at 18,245, Sun Prairie at 15,333 and Fitchburg at 15,648—you’re out.

Send in your nominations for your favorites to WisconsinWonders@aol.com in the categories below. Please send just the name of your favorite town and a very brief supporting statement of no more than 10-20 words for each nominee by Feb. 15. Once again we will assemble a select committee of travel writers familiar with Wisconsin’s well known and not-so-well-known communities. The committee will review and consider submissions, narrow the nominees down to the top choices and be sure no obvious nominees have been overlooked.

We’ll announce the final list of nominees in the Feb. 28 issue of the Shepherd Express and will enable online voting until April 24. Choices will be tallied and announced in May—just in time to plan your summer getaways.

The Best Wisconsin Communities: Categories

1. Most Scenic Beauty: The area around the town is spectacular, awesome.

2. Most Beautiful Town: The town itself—buildings, roads, its natural setting—is beautiful.

3. Most Exciting Architecture: This town could be historic, contemporary, futuristic—but definitely interesting.

4. Best Galleries and Arts Scene: Artists and galleries make for a vibrant cultural life.

5. Best Theater and Entertainment: Which is the best town for plays, concerts and other entertainment events?

6. Best Festival Weekend: From pickles to mushrooms to fish to cheese, which is the best town to visit to enjoy a weekend festival?

7. Best Dining: Places to eat make this town great.

8. Best Fishing Getaway: Which town offers the best fishing experience?

9. Best Biking Getaway: Wisconsin has miles of great bike trails, but which town is best for bikers?

10. Best Snowmobiling Getaway: Lots of snow is great for this sport, but which town is the best place to base your getaway?

11. Boating Getaway: sails, paddle or motorized—where to take your boat for a great water getaway?

12. Best Cross-country Skiing: Sure, you can ski anywhere there’s snow … but which town is best for hitting the trails?

13. Best Downhill Skiing: Your choices are limited in Wisconsin, but name the town that is best for a downhill adventure.

14. Best Ethnic Getaway: Wisconsin is proud of its multicultural heritage, but which town offers the best getaway that is enriched by another culture?

15. Best Shopping: From flea markets to international big names, you can find it all in Wisconsin, but which town really offers the most for bargain hunters and upscale shoppers?

16. Best Historic Town: Which town makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time?

17. Best on a Lake: Which town offers the best lakefront views and activities?

18. Best on a River: Which town makes the most of this natural resource?

19. Most Romantic: When you want to get away with your lover, you head to…?

20. Best for Families: What town is the best place to take your family for a getaway?

21. Best Weekend Getaway: All things considered, when expense is not an issue, which town has the right combination of factors to make it the best weekend getaway in Wisconsin?

You have until Feb. 15 to tell us your favorites.

Let the nominations begin! Send them to WisconsinWonders@aol.com.