The coolest small towns in America? It's not anybody's guess... but anyone's vote can count in a Budget Travel promotion.
The annual civic beauty contest runs through 11:59 p.m. Feb. 25; it is open to municipalities that have less than 19,000 residents.
And as of Tuesday, North Carolina had two burgs in the top 15: Hillsborough and Washington.
Here are the rankings so far:
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1. Grand Marais. Minn. (24.3 percent)
2. Chincoteague, Va. (21.0 percent)
3. Hillsborough (9.9 percent)
4. Washington (7.9 percent)
5. Allegan, Mich. (7.0 percent)
6. Delhi, N.Y. (6.4 percent)
7. Fort Myers Beach, Fla.: (5.8 percent)
8. Old Orchard Beach, Maine: (4.2 percent)
9. Snohomish, Wash. (4.1 percent)
10. Berkeley Springs, W.V. (2.8 percent)
11. Huron, Ohio (2.6 percent)
12. Pismo Beach, Calif. (2.1 percent)
13. Crested Butte, Colo. (0.9 percent)
14. Ka’anapali, Hawaii (0.9 percent)
15. Blanco, Texas (0.3 percent)
Sorry, but the deadline has passed for nominations, and write-ins are not allowed.
This being an election, there of course seems to be skullduggery at the crossroads. Various tourism sites in northern Minnesota (northlandsnewscenter.com, boreal.org, visitcookcounty.com, etc.) are plugging Grand Marais.
Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar send out a note on this via Twitter. And she has 49,900 people following her. That's far more than either of North Carolina’s have when combined (Richard Burr: 30,400; Thom Tillis: 28,900).
Hillsborough and Washington are both lovely towns. Then again, Grand Marais – the only other place on the list that I've visited – is pretty cool. And when the wind tries to blow Grand Marais into Lake Superior this time of year, it can be pretty frigid.
You can vote at this website. To prevent robo-voting, the election is set up to allow one vote per 24 hours per IP address (this is to cut down on ballot stuffing).
You will, of course, have to wend your way down the page around ads and other things plugging Budget Travel pages and offers.
You know how elections are.
The photo at the top of this post, by Harry Lynch of Raleigh's News & Observer, shows the Hillsborough Riverwalk, along the Eno River in Hillsborough.
Click the arrow on the Hillsborough shot to see, courtesy of the Blanco, Texas, municipal webpage, its city hall. I'm not sure if the town is better known as "Gateway to West Blanco" or "Home of the Blanco Burger."