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Village is ‘best hometown’

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If you think Yellow Springs is a wonderful place to call home, the editors of Ohio Magazine agree with you. They recently announced that the village has been selected as one of five “Best Ohio Hometowns” for 2010.

“It’s a great opportunity,” Yellow Springs Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Karen Wintrow said of the selection in a recent interview.

The honor means that the village will be spotlighted in the November issue of the magazine, which in the southwest section of the state will also feature a Yellow Springs photo on the cover. According to Ohio Magazine Executive Editor Richard Osborne, the magazine divides the state into five regions for the contest, and selects a winner for each. Joining Yellow Springs as 2010 winners will be Granville in central Ohio, Cambridge in southeast Ohio, Willoughby in the northeast of the state and Sylvania in the northwest.

The magazine will again spotlight the winners in its January issue, which focuses on the best of Ohio in a variety of categories, and its June issue, which focuses on travel, according to Osborne.

A community celebration of the honor will take place on Friday, Nov. 20, which is the November Third Friday Fling, Wintrow said.

In its fourth year, the “Best Hometown” series has proven a popular annual feature, Osborne said. The editors invite readers to suggest nominees (some towns nominate themselves), and editors also find towns on their own as they travel around the state, he said. Starting out with many nominees, they narrow the number to several finalists in each region, then visit those towns.

“We put a lot of time and effort into this,” Osborne said.

2009 “Best Hometown” winners were Troy, Athens, Perrysburg, Dublin and Chagrin Falls.

Yellow Springs was selected this year after Travel Editor Jessica Esemplare came to town in August, one of several finalists she visited in the southwest part of the state. While the Chamber of Commerce had not made a submission this year, someone had suggested the village several years ago, and each year Esemplare considers all past nominees as well, she said.

Yellow Springs’ activism, diversity and local focus were some of the reasons the editors chose it, Esemplare said in an interview on Friday. She was especially impressed with the activism around saving Antioch College.

“The residents seemed that they refused to let Antioch College die,” she said. “In most towns, people would complain about losing jobs and then give up.”

The diversity of residents, and the village’s history of diversity also made a strong impression, as did the presence of so many downtown businesses that are “locally owned and supported, including a grocery store, which you hardly ever see anymore,” she said.

Esemplare, who grew up in Cincinnati, had never been to the village before her August visit.

“I didn’t realize what a fun little town it is,” she said.

In general, according to Osborne, the award is based on a combination of factors, including a town’s culture and heritage, community spirit, education opportunities, businesses, attractions, celebrations and health.

“It really is the overall balance,” that the editors seek, he said.

To Wintrow, the honor is validation of the stepped-up marketing campaign that the Yellow Springs Chamber of Commerce has pursued the past two years. While previously, the Chamber advertised in local and Dayton papers, it has recently extended its reach to Cincinnati and Columbus alternative media, she said.

“We’ve been working hard to get out information about Yellow Springs and why it’s special,” she said.

The Ohio Magazine honor is especially significant because it doesn’t focus on the village simply as a travel destination, but as a place to live, Wintrow said.

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