Thursday, August 15, 2013

A contest, a list... and The Skunk Train

We receive shoals of press release -- many useless, some unintentionally humorous, a handful that are quite helpful... and a bucket or two (in all these categories) that are read just because they have some sort of list.

People are captivated by rankings, whether done by experts or ordinary folks.

Like all incoming PR, the lists are sent in by agencies, companies or individuals who want to get their name out there.

We'll post lists on this blog from time to time, and will start with this one from Virtual Tourist (, a travel-community website whose comments and reviews are penned by its members.

Virtual Tourist is a bit different for three reasons: It indeed started as a community project (at the University of Buffalo); though now owned by Expedia, it's clearly more an experiment in social media than a a profit center; it gets publicity through its ever-expanding array of  top-10 lists.

What are pushing now? An "8th Wonder of the World" competition: June 3 through Sept. 28, people are encouraged to weigh on on which listed destination should win the honor.

There are a little more than 300 from which to choose. Nominees range from the expected (Yellowstone National Park, Stonehenge) to the odd (Stew Leonard's, a business in Connecticut that is supposedly "The Disneyland of Dairy Stores"; the "largest Bass Pro Shop in the World," in Springfield, Mo.).

Attractions that have gotten on the ballot are, in turn, touting their presence on the list -- looking for votes.

The end effect, of course, is to drive more travel fans to the virtualtourist site. The winner will be announced in October.

Take a look at the nominees -- you'll see some familiar places from our area. Among them:

Biltmore Estate, in Asheville
Brookgreen Gardens, in Murrells Inlet, S.C. (above; Sun-News photo by Charles Slade)
Crabtree Falls, on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Franklin Street, in Chapel Hill
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Liberty Bridge, in Greenville, S.C.
Lumber River, near Lumberton
N.C. Zoo, in Asheboro
Rockingham County, N.C.

P.S.: If you're rooting/voting for a nominee close to home, be aware that the Skunk Train of Fort Bragg (shown below) isn't in the Carolinas: It's in Fort Bragg, Calif.