At last report, the contest has received more than 2,000 ideas from about 900 people, according to Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland.
Entry deadline is end-of-business Friday.
Tennessee’s longest-serving mayor brainstormed the original concept earlier this year and launched it with the blessing of the full Cleveland City Council and MainStreet Cleveland. The winning entry — whether it is a short nickname, slogan, motto or theme — will be used to market the area’s tourism and business opportunities.
Since the contest’s launch three months ago, response by think-tankers has exceeded the expectations of both the mayor and Melissa Woody, vice president of the Convention & Visitor’s Bureau for the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce. Woody will chair the selection committee’s work.
“I am shocked at the number [of ideas] we have received,” Woody said. “It is exciting to know our community has such an interest in something like this. It is encouraging to know that people care so much about what we would use as a slogan.”
Although acknowledging a personal sense of “shock and awe” at the avalanche of suggestions, Woody stressed it points to a strength of Cleveland and Bradley County residents.
“It shows a great deal of community pride, and that’s exciting ... and at the same time, it is overwhelming,” she conceded. Nonetheless, Woody said she feels the selection committee members are up to the task and will approach the responsibility with a high level of excitement.
Rowland, who will serve as an ex-officio member of the committee without a vote, joined Woody in his exuberance over the public’s response which likely has been aided by the $1,000 cash prize that has been staked through donations by several area businesses and individuals.
“I am elated and pleasantly surprised about the great number of entries,” the mayor stressed. “I don’t know how long the judges will need to complete their selection, but once their decisions have been made it will be taken to the Cleveland City Council at their next meeting.”
The Council will have the final voice on the selection committee’s recommendation.
With so many suggestions to review, and the fact that even more will probably be received in the contest’s final hours, Rowland pointed out the judges might discuss presenting a small handful of semifinalists for the Council’s review depending on the quality of the choices.
“I haven’t talked to Melissa about this, but judging might be so tough that the committee decides to present the top three ideas for final selection by the Council,” Rowland said.
Woody said the means of elimination and final selection will be discussed at Friday’s selection committee meeting. She said the mayor is scheduled to attend so his input, like all committee members, will be welcomed in determining how the judging panel will begin its work.
“I will be taking suggestions on the methods to use [in the elimination process],” Woody explained. “I want our other judges to come up with ideas on how to do it as well. This will be a pretty big task.”
The novelty of the Cleveland nicknaming contest was the secret to its uncertainty, she said.
“I don’t think any of us knew what to expect,” Woody stressed. “Because we have so many entries, we’ll just have to discuss at the meeting [how to proceed].”
Currently, a Chamber of Commerce intern is compiling the 2,000-plus suggestions into spreadsheets which is where selection panelists will get started in their work. Woody said the response has been so immense that entries were handed to her in a full copy-paper box.
She said copies of the spreadsheets will be given to each committee member. The ledgers will include the slogan and nickname suggestions, but not the names of the people who submitted them. The names will be matched only when final selections are made.
Rowland thanked community residents for their interest in the slogan contest and the willingness of volunteers to serve on the selection panel.
“I appreciate the interest of so many people,” the mayor said. “I believe that with so much thought put into this, and with so many ideas, that there has to be at least one suggestion that is top-notch and that says it all in one word or just a few words about what our city is.”
He added, “And again, thank you to the Cleveland Daily Banner for so much help in getting the word out and creating this great interest.”
Woody said the magnitude of the community response will lengthen the time needed for the judging.
“I would hope that we’ll have [our winner] by early to mid-November,” she said. “That’s longer away than we had originally anticipated, but the sheer numbers [of entries] will require it.”
Friday’s selection panel meeting will be a chance for the group to get organized. Woody believes the committee’s next gathering will be sometime during the week of Oct. 10.
(Editor’s Note: Last-minute entries will be accepted through end-of-business Friday by email or personal delivery. Emails may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. The mayor’s office is located in the Cleveland Municipal Building at 190 Church St. N.E.)