By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
It was a year ago that Bowling Green was named one of Ohio’s Best Hometowns by Ohio Magazine.
Next week, the Bowling Green Convention and Visitors Bureau will remind local residents why their community won that honor.
A “Best of BG” event is planned for July 19, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., in the Simpson Garden Park Building, and the surrounding gardens. It’s fitting that the event be held at the park, since the gardens were one of the factors that won Bowling Green its “Best Hometown” status.
The event will feature at least 35 businesses in the hospitality, restaurant, retail and lodging sectors, plus non-profit organizations.
“We’re pretty excited about it,” said Wendy Chambers, executive director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We’re having the opportunity to celebrate again our hometown honor.”
Next week is a busy one for local officials. The city and university are hosting the Ohio Town & Gown Summit, with an estimated 150 attending. The Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce is hosting its annual luncheon on Friday, followed by the second Firefly Nights downtown in the evening.
“It’s a big week,” Chambers said. “Our town’s always got something going on.”
That buzz of activity helped the city secure its “Best Hometown” status.
As editor of Ohio Magazine, Jim Vickers is accustomed to visiting communities throughout the state. But during his stop in Bowling Green, Vickers was struck by three features of the city – the energy from the university even though most students were gone for the summer, the healthy historic downtown, and the beautiful Simpson Garden Park.
The 12th annual Ohio’s Best Hometowns issue of the magazine recognizes four communities in addition to Bowling Green: Marietta, Milford, Mount Vernon and Wooster.
Bowling Green beat out other communities because of its vibrant college town atmosphere, strong sense of community and shared vision for the future.
“I was in Bowling Green for the site visit,” Vickers said, so he had first-hand knowledge of why the city ranked so high. “Every year we look for towns that exemplify a strong community.”
They checked out the campus. “It’s a vibrant college town, even in the summertime,” he said last year shortly after the awards were announced. “There’s an energy there.”
They went downtown. “The health of the downtown really struck us. There’s a lot of work that goes into a downtown that works.”
And they visited Simpson Garden Park. “That was a true community effort,” Vickers said. “That wouldn’t have happened without the community bonding together.”
This is the second time Bowling Green has been named one of the state’s best hometowns by Ohio Magazine. The last time was 10 years ago.
“I was so proud of showing all the things that happened in the last 10 years,” Chambers said.
The magazine representatives met with Mayor Dick Edwards, toured the Ben Franklin store downtown, talked with then BGSU President Mary Ellen Mazey, and learned about the creation of the Four Corners offices. They also toured the Dream Cars museum, the Wood County Historical Center and Simpson Garden Park. They learned of the Not In Our Town movement, the community action plan, and teamwork by the hospital and university.
“They got to see the best of everything,” Chambers said.
While the nod by the magazine is a boost to the city’s spirits, it’s also great advertisement for people looking for a place to put roots.
“I think this brings us to the forefront of being a great place to live, work and visit,” Chambers said.
Bowling Green and the other winning communities are featured in three editions of Ohio Magazine during the year. The magazine will focus on “unique places to visit and ways to enjoy each location.”
“It’s a year-long honor,” Vickers said.