'America's Most Interesting Town' celebrates
Pallavi Agarwal | Highlands TodayLAKE PLACID There is Al Pelski, Lake Placid's head clown, impishly saluting in his "Big Al" costume, the town's water tower visible in the background.
Published: December 7, 2012
Published: December 7, 2012
In another photo, artist Monica Turner stands in front of her mural, one of 44 that dot Lake Placid's buildings.
No photo spread of the Caladium Capital can be complete without a picture of the colorful plant, so there is one. Rows and rows of "fuchsia-colored" caladiums blanket a field that seems to join the horizon.
Thursday, word got around that Lake Placid had won the grand-prize in an online contest Reader's Digest magazine had sponsored on "America's Most Interesting Town."
The two-page spread features Toby's Clown School, Lake Placid's caladium fields and the festival named after it, and how the town came about to be "Mural Town U.S.A."
The online contest was open to anyone who wanted to nominate a town. Readers voted on the nomination online and had a chance to submit "stories" and pictures.
A Reader's Digest website page shows 25 "interesting entries" - from Lawrence, Kan., to Denison, Ohio.
Lake Placid has two – one of Harriet and Bob Porter, who founded the town's mural society, and another submission by an area resident with an accompanying photo of a Cypress tree in the middle of Lake Istokpoga.
Mike Semans, who submitted the photo he took of the Porters, longtime friends of his, wrote about how the couple was inspired by the outdoor murals they saw in Chemainus, British Columbia, Canada.
" 'They immediately started their trip back to Lake Placid with a fervor to revitalize the town," wrote neighbors Mike and Jan S.," the entry reads.
"So impressive are the works of art that the Tampa Bay Times dubbed one " 'the Sistine Chapel of Winn-Dixies.'"
As the magazine's editors unveil their grand-prize winner for its "unique variety of nature, culture, and fun," they ask readers for a "drumroll."
Thursday, many Lake Placid area residents were happy to comply, hoping the "national title" brings in tourist dollars and gets people to buy homes here and eventually retire.
"When you think of Florida, you don't think of Lake Placid," reasoned Ken LeBlanc, a Lake Placid builder, who is hoping the town gets some mileage from the exposure.
LeBlanc, who was just about to pick up his copy from the Greater Lake Placid Chamber of Commerce office when Highlands Today contacted him, was one of many making a stop at the chamber office.
Chamber CEO and President Eileen May said they were giving out a copy to every member, and non-members were welcome to pick one if there were any extras left.
The magazine had promised them a two-page spread so she had ordered several copies of the January edition.
May didn't know who had won until she picked up a magazine copy Wednesday and flipped to Page 18, "delighted" to see that Lake Placid had taken home the gold.
"It's an early Christmas gift for a great town," May smiled Thursday.
Lake Placid's new title is making its town folk feel good about themselves, May said, during a tough economic time.
While the chamber has no celebrations planned, a two-year-old group started to bring tourists to Lake Placid, Tour Lake Placid, is hoping to arrange a party of sorts although it is still working out the details.
Harriet Porter, who also founded the informal group that bands together the town's tourist-related groups and other like-minded residents, said they had been talking about a party even before the winner was announced.
Since the magazine had sent a photographer to take photos a couple of months ago, Porter figured that Lake Placid was one of 10 finalists in the running.
"We knew we placed somewhere," she said. "We could have been the 10th."
When word got around about the contest being held, several people voted, not once but many times, and submitted stories to bolster the entry, she said.
Mary Tanner was one of them.
She discovered Lake Placid one day while driving down U.S. 27 from Naples and was charmed by its lakes.
They were looking for a town off the beaten path and found one.
"What I like most about Lake Placid is its small-town feel," she said.
It is not known how many votes Lake Placid received. The magazine did not respond by press time.
In an earlier story, Reader's Digest's senior editor had said the January edition was supposed to hit the news-stands in the middle of this month.