Cape Girardeau was not selected Sunday as one of the National Civic League's 10 All-America cities at the annual competition in Anaheim, Calif. Though the outcome was bitter, participants say, the totality of the experience was sweet.
"I'll say that I've never been more proud of the citizens of Cape Girardeau. They put their hearts and souls into this event," said Mayor Jay Knudtson. "We made a commitment not to leave anything on the field and in the end they left nothing on the field. The bottom line is there were some impressive cities at this event. We learned a lot from it and today we hold our heads high."
The 10 cities selected for the honor were Lincoln, Calif.; Longmont, Colo.; Sarasota County, Fla.; Marietta, Ga.; Kansas City, Mo.; Columbus, Ohio; Maumee, Ohio; Richland County, S.C.; DeSoto, Texas; and Pharr, Texas.
Twenty-eight finalist cities participated in the competition, which does not segregate applicants by size or geography. All but two of the All-America cities are larger than Cape Girardeau.
Cape Girardeau sent 49 representatives and family members to the event and paid the way for 36 of them. The total cost of the trip was $60,000 with between $20,000 and $25,000 of that deferred by donations from area businesses and citizen benefactors.
Cape Girardeau last received the All-America City designation in 1967.
Organizers say they do not yet know whether the city will enter next year's competition.
"I think we're going to try again," said assistant city manager Heather Brooks. "I don't know whether or not it will be this next year. We'll have to sit back and think about that."
During the 10 minutes allotted for a presentation, Cape Girardeau's representatives highlighted the SEMO Network Against Sexual Violence, Community Caring Council and Old Town Cape as some of the city's signature organizations. After the performance, designated spokespeople responded to questions about the city for 10 minutes.
Questioners asked about the relationship between the university and the community, the availability of low-income housing and efforts to get youth involved in government.
The performance was directed by Dr. Kenn Stilson of Southeast Missouri State University and included Knudtson, police chief Carl Kinnison, city manager Doug Leslie, still photography by Joel Ray and music by the Dixieland Band.
"For me, I was just touched by the people who spent their time and money to go out there," Knudtson said. "It sounds kind of corny but it was just so evident the passion people have for the community. The other night Doug Leslie and I stood back and were visibly touched by the level of commitment and the loyalty of these people. If nothing else it reaffirmed that we've got a lot of people that care a lot about this city."
Brooks agreed. "What we talked about last night was that when we came out here we were all friends and associates, but we all kind of felt like we were more of a family after this experience," she said.
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