— David S. Slawson
Contemporary U.S. Author
Two months remain in a loosely dubbed “What’s In A Name?” contest that is challenging creative minds to encapsulate the Cleveland and Bradley County experience into a single nickname or slogan, or perhaps some innovative marriage of the two.
Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland announced the naming competition a few weeks ago and proclaimed that it will run through Sept. 30, at which time a selection committee will get down to business.
A thousand dollar cash prize awaits the winner.
It won’t be easy — not the committee’s selection nor coming up with the ideas. Yet, more than 300 entries have already been submitted.
I wracked my brain a few minutes the other day trying to coin a clever descriptive, but I walked away with a headache. And no names. Not even a remote possibility. Not only did I not have a Top 10, I didn’t even have a Top 1, 2 or 3. Maybe I was trying too hard, but it’s a tough task when considering the potential subject matter.
I mean, consider all the traits that make Cleveland what it is. And now include all of Bradley County.
Just for starters, which of these do you iron into a catchy slogan or weave into a town motto or stamp with a memorable nickname? Which direction do you take among the myriad of crossroads?
We have mountains, rivers, the Cherokee, Red Clay State Park, whitewater rafting, fishing, hunting, hiking, camping, big industries, expanding businesses, two colleges, an historic downtown, tornadoes and their aftermath, unprecedented economic development even in the midst of The Great Recession, headquarters to international denominations, a few celebrities who once called our hometown home, a speedway, lots of wildlife, a few famous writers, a handful of professional sports stars and a growing population.
Just coming up with that list is giving rise to another brain pain. So I’ll stop with “what could be” and proceed with the “done did.”
For those still pondering ideas for the mayoral committee, you might look across the state to see what other communities have done. Here are a few.
Adamsville likes to call itself “The Biggest Little Town in Tennessee.” Catchy. Of course, everyone already knows that Athens bills itself “The Friendly City,” another strong identity. Bristol, on our side of the state line, shares the title of “The Birthplace of Country Music” with its Virginia twin.
Most folks know Chattanooga as “The Scenic City,” but Southeast Tennessee’s biggest town also goes by “Dynamo of Dixie,” “City of Lights” and “Gateway to the South.” Clarksville took the latter title to another level by calling itself “Gateway to the New South.” Too, Clarksvillians consider themselves “The Queen City,” “Queen of the Cumberland” and “Tennessee’s Top Spot.”
Many recognize Columbia as “Mule Capital of the World.” Elizabethtown is the “City of Power” and Johnson City boasts of being “Little Chicago of the South.” Jonesborough is “Tennessee’s Oldest Town.”
Kenton likes being “Home of the White Squirrels” and Kingsport claims to be “The Model City.” The mayor has been dubbing Knoxville as “Dogwood City,” but I came across another pair of labels, “The Marble City” and “Underwear Capital of the World.”
Lebanon is the “Appalachian Square Dance Capital of the World.” I really like Lenoir City’s, “Lakeway to the Smokies.” Great phraseology. McMinnville is “Nursery Capital of the World,” and Memphis goes by several aliases, among them “Barbecued Pork Capital of the World,” “Home of the Blues,” “Bluff City” and “Birthplace of Rock’n Roll.”
Nashville is not only “Music City,” but also “The Athens of the South,” “City of Rocks” and “Minneapolis of the South.” Oak Ridge is “America’s Secret City” and “The Atomic City.” Shelbyville is “Pencil City” and “Walking Horse Capital of the World.” Wartrace bills itself “Cradle of the Tennessee Walking Horse.”
Google didn’t mention this one, but the folks in Bradford over on the state’s western end call themselves “The Home of Doodle Soup.” If you’ve never had Doodle Soup, it’s good stuff ... served with biscuits and rabbit.
Those are just a few nicknames and slogans used within our own state. In weeks to come, we’ll talk about some branding used around the country.
(Editor’s Note: Submit Cleveland entries by mail to Cleveland Contest, Office of the Mayor, City of Cleveland, 190 Church St. N.E., Cleveland, TN 37311; or email them to email@example.com.)