By Janae Easlon
The Bellingham Business Journal
LYNDEN — This city can celebrate more than just its title as the nation’s largest raspberry producer.
On June 3, it was announced Lynden won America’s Main Street Contest. Out of ten finalists, it was the only town west of the Rocky Mountains.
A local resident nominated Lynden for the competition. From there, the city received more than 280,000 votes nationwide. The prize was $25,000 for the community to use improving its downtown.
During its Fourth of July festivities, Lynden held the “Main Streets Make Us Better” press conference to announce how the prize money will be used.
A crowd of more than 250 people arrived to watch representatives of Independent We Stand and the Downtown Business Association speak on behalf of the contest win. Free T-shirts were handed out as a thank you for voting.
“We want to put as much as we can into the downtown for the residents and visitors, and get a bang for our buck,” said Ken Stap, president of the Lynden Downtown Business Association. “This is what happens when a small community stays together. We are honored and it’s a privilege.”
The organization Independent We Stand, based in Virginia, runs the contest. Its mission is to assist small business owners and inspiring consumers to support them, according to their website.
Other towns on the ballot include Cleveland Heights, Ohio; Brookings, South Dakota; Greenville, Ohio; Millinocket, Maine; Madison, Indiana and Woodstock, Georgia.
Lynden’s contest profile described the 2008 fire to its historical Delft Square building and the economic downturn the town faced afterward.
“Coming back from ruins after a devastating fire right as the Great Recession took hold in 2008 is just the type of community engagement and support Independent We Stand recognizes and promotes across the country,” said Bill Brunelle, co-founder of Independent We Stand in a press release. “We can’t wait to see the improvements they’re able to make with this prize and how those improvements will benefit independent businesses in Lynden.”
Ideas on how to use the prize money include improving signage and wayfinding signs to direct people to the downtown area. The Welcome to Lynden sign will receive a touchup and the flower beds around town will be added to and given a new watering system, Stap said.
“We are hoping to put forth some money to give to our local museum a facelift,” Stap said. “A second mural with an agriculture theme is another idea we had.”
Village Books co-owner Chuck Robinson is in charge of setting up a committee to finish the bronze statue of Lynden founder’s Holden and Phoebe Judson, Stap said. Lynden recently celebrated its 125th anniversary as a town on June 4.
Other prizes given to the city of Lynden include $500 Tire Pros certificate towards a set of Continental tires, a $500 Do it Best Corp. shopping spree and a $500 PPG Pittsburgh Paints shopping spree on top of the cash prize from Independent We Stand.
Sponsors of the contest include STIHL Inc, an outdoor power equipment brand, and FCA US BusinessLink a company that connects business owners with commercial dealers for vehicles.