- Associated Press - Thursday, February 27, 2014

LITITZ, Pa. (AP) - It may not have the title any longer, but Lititz is still pretty cool.

“Of course we’re cool. We’ve always been cool,” borough council president Karen Weibel insists.

Lititz took its coolness to a national playing field over the past 12 months after being voted America’s Coolest Small Town by readers of Budget Travel Magazine.

“We’ve had as much fun with this as we could extract,” Weibel says. “It has definitely brought us into focus for a lot of folks.

“Something like this brings out a town’s identity and celebrates the unique.”

But the title is awarded annually - Lititz was the eighth - and on Tuesday the torch was passed to Berlin, Md.

“Just because someone else has the title doesn’t mean our coolness went away,” says Kelly Withum, executive director of Venture Lititz.

Berlin, a historic town with a population of 4,563, just a few miles from Ocean City and Assateague Island, bested contenders including Cazenovia, N.Y., Buckhannon, W.Va., Travelers Rest, S.C., and Nevada City, Calif., in this year’s poll.

“I haven’t been there,” Withum says. “I heard it’s delightful.”

“I think that will be a good spring day trip,” Weibel adds. “It’s in Maryland, how far could it be?”

Related: What small Lancaster County town should the next “coolest”?

Lititz was awarded the “coolest” title in February 2013. Nearly 100,000 votes were cast for 924 towns in Budget Travel’s eighth annual competition.

The Moravian town, known for chocolate, pretzels, fireworks, ice sculptures and more, bested the likes of Camden, Maine, Flagler Beach, Fla., and Watkins Glen, N.Y., in the hard-fought competition.

Having won once, Lititz is no longer eligible for future competitions.

But Lititz has reveled in the title over the past year.

“I think it has been a big boost to our town, in regard to getting more tourists in,” says Mayor Timothy Snyder. “It’s really given our town a nice image.”

Snyder said local shopkeepers’ spirits were boosted by the designation.

“It’s something special,” he says.

Snyder, who owns the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery in Lititz, says this has been the company’s best year for business since 2007.

“I assume that’s the reason,” he says.

Other local businesses also have had a banner year, Snyder says. Many people who made plans to visit the region - say Hershey or Gettysburg - made a point of coming to Lititz because of the designation, he says.

“There has been a measurable uptick in sales, for stores and restaurants,” Weibel agrees. “Certainly it’s brought much more attention to the town in general.”

Withum says traffic at the Lititz visitor’s center increased by some 6,000 people over the past year.

“It was great,” Withum says. “We definitely used it as a marketing tool - locally, regionally and for national tourism as well. I am currently helping Berlin and giving them suggestions as to how they can maximize the title.”

There are also pitfalls to avoid, Withum says - once Lititz earned the title, she says, sales representatives oozed out of the woodwork trying to sell the borough slick, costly video packages and other marketing tools.

“It’s like winning the lottery, and cousins you never knew you had start coming to you for money,” she says.

But it’s also an excuse to beef up the town’s image.

Because of the “cool” designation, for instance, Lititz overhauled its website to be more “visitor-friendly,” she says. More requests came in for the local visitor’s guide, she adds, and local merchants worked together on group advertising campaigns spotlighting Lititz as a destination.

“Retailers were reporting significant increases in their sales,” Withum says. “Many reported that this was their best sales year ever.”

Lititz also has taken the opportunity to promote itself as a great place to live and raise a family,” Weibel says.

“It’s been a great experience,” she says. My goodness, it hatched great community events throughout the year. It got thousands of people downtown. We really did have great fun with it. I know Berlin will have a great time with it, too.”

Lititz will continue to market itself for being voted America’s coolest small town,” Withum notes. “Although we can’t use it as strongly, as aggressively as we did. That would be unfair to the new, reigning cool town.

“But we’re definitely still cool.”

Lititz has both its fans and detractors on LancasterOnline’s Facebook page, where announcement on Tuesday of Berlin’s new title drew a variety of comments.

“Berlin, MD … never heard of it,” wrote Mandy Welch. “Now Lititz, PA is definitely deserving of coolest small town. It’s filled with wonderful little shops, parks, and the locals are unforgettable.”

“Lititz is great and all but doesn’t quite deserve any ‘coolest’ title. It’s in middle of nowhere and has a candy factory,” argues Josh Stoll. “So what….”

Some people nominated other local towns, such as Columbia and Quarryville, for the title in future years.

“Gap deserves it just for the lighthouse,” wrote Tom Shindle.





Information from: Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era , https://lancasteronline.com

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