Sequim, Port Townsend in Top 10 of online contest for best Northwestern small town

  • Wednesday, April 12, 2017 1:30am
  • News

Two North Olympic Peninsula communities are in the top 10 in a regional online contest for the Best Northwestern Small Town, and, as of Tuesday, April 11, sunny Sequim was ranked No. 1, some distance ahead of historic Port Townsend’s sixth place.

The top 10 towns in USA Today’s Reader’s Choice Awards will be published on the website after polls close at noon EDT Monday, April 24.

Readers can vote for their choices at smalltown.

The rules of the contest specify one vote per person daily, but those who vote early enough in the day find they can get in two a day if they wish, pointed out Barbara Hanna, Sequim’s communication and marketing director, and City Manager Charlie Bush.

“We will get braggin’ rights,” if Sequim remains ranked No. 1, said Hanna, who has sent out pleas for button-pushing since the town of slightly more than 6,600 was notified of its nomination March 27.

“Sequim’s No. 1?” said Christina Pivarnik, Port Townsend’s director of marketing last week. “We’d better get busy.”

Readers are choosing from 20 small towns in the West. The towns were nominated by the 10 Best editors and a panel of travel experts, which worked to find the best small towns with populations of less than 10,000 in the region of six states: Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

The group narrowed the choices to 20 out of nearly 50 options, according to USA Today.

“These 20 small towns are each travel-worthy for their beauty, culture, shopping, dining, entertainment and lodging options,” USA Today says on the website.

Following Sequim’s lead as of April 9 were Buffalo, Wyo., ranked second; Sitka, Alaska, ranked third; Florence, Ore., ranked fourth; Friday Harbor, ranked fifth; Port Townsend in sixth place; Wallace, Idaho, ranked seventh; Cooke City, Mont., ranked eighth; Talkeetna, Alaska, ranked ninth, and Whitefish, Mont., in 10th place.

“It was a remarkable notice to find out we were nominated, especially because of other cities that were nominated,” Hanna said.

She described Sequim as a “small, friendly town. The people are what make it special.”

“We live in one of the most beautiful places on the planet,” she added. “There are always things to do, especially outdoors and all the community-based events we have.

Said Pivarnik: “We’re thrilled to be nominated by USA Today for Best Northwestern Small Town. It’s a great way to bring awareness to the Olympic Peninsula and Port Townsend.

“Our beautiful Victorian seaport is a special place for people to visit and to live. We love sharing our city and welcoming visitors from near and far. I hope everyone votes … and votes often for Port Townsend.”

The online contest describes Sequim as an old mill town on the Olympic Peninsula with a walkable downtown and a historic grain elevator, “famous for succulent Dungeness crab, as well as the fields of fragrant lavender at its outskirts.”

Port Townsend “was originally meant to be a major harbor on the West Coast, and while that never came to fruition, the town retains much of its historic charm,” USA Today says on its website.

“Water Street passes through the heart of the historic district, where architecture buffs can spot numerous Victorian buildings, like the Hastings Building and the Rose Theatre.”

Port Townsend treasures its history, according to Mari Mullen, director of Port Townsend Main Street, saying it was founded in 1851 “and is one of the finest examples of a Victorian seaport in the United States.

“Port Townsend is known for its breathtaking setting, lively arts environment and year-round calendar of events. There is always something fun to do and visitors and residents appreciate our charming, small-town quality of life,” Mullen said.

“We have two commercial historic business districts — Uptown and Downtown. We have a real working waterfront and fantastic destination retail, dining and lodging choices for a town of 9,100,” she said.

“There’s a lively farmers market, exciting festivals and beautiful 434-acre Fort Worden State Park with miles of trails and views. Eagles fly overhead, you can kayak from the waterfront or sip a latte and watch the ferry go by.”

Rankings for the bottom 10 towns as of Sunday were, from 11th to 20th: Cannon Beach, Ore.; Hood River, Ore.; Astoria, Ore.; Livingston, Mont.; Cody, Wyo.; Homer, Alaska; Seward, Alaska; La Conner; Jacksonville, Ore.; and Winthrop.

Leah Leach is an executive editor with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. She can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at

As of Sunday, Port Townsend, seen here in a file photo, held the eighth-place ranking in USA Today’s Reader’s Choice Awards for Best Northwestern Small Town. (Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce)

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