Prattville Wins America's Favorite Park Contest
When the city of Prattville decided to jump into Coca Cola’s 2012 America’s Favorite Park contest, it was already two weeks behind the competition. When Pratt Park won the $100,000 grand prize – awarded to the park that received the most online votes – it was because the whole community got on board.
“I felt that if we could give a good enough project, maybe we could get buy-in that way,” says Teresa Lee, executive assistant to Prattville’s mayor. Lee, the mayor and the parks and recreation director settled on a splash pad for the kids.
“The mayor authorized everything and put out a press release that day, and we just started voting like crazy,” she says.
Vote-a-thons and Midnight Flash Mobs
As word got out, the community pulled together, and Pratt Park started climbing the contest ranks. The city organized vote-a-thons in the park using laptop computers provided by the Autauga County Extension service. Volunteers showed people how to vote and set up smartphones with the Foursquare app, because Foursquare check-ins counted for extra votes.
The mayor’s wife, Stephanie Gillespie, and volunteers Jeremy and Emily Abbott helped Lee administer the 6,000-member Facebook group that played a crucial role in securing the win. Using Facebook and Foursquare, Gillespie coordinated late-night flash mob check-ins three times each hour.
“My job was to get people keyed up for the flash mob vote,” Gillespie says. “We’d do a countdown, and then everyone would vote together.”
Jeremy and Emily Abbott kept track of all the data and posted charts and graphs on the Facebook page, making sure that voting kept pace.
Maxwell AFB, Chamber Spread the Word
Thanks to nearby Maxwell Air Force Base and the military presence in Prattville, the network of friends and family voting for Pratt Park stretched across the country.
“We were capturing the traffic, the analytics, and we could see that we’d gotten votes from every single state,” Lee says. “It was pretty amazing.”
The Prattville Chamber of Commerce promoted the contest with banners and signage all over town urging “Vote PrattPark.com.” Flyers went out on pizza delivery boxes. Auburn University Montgomery sent letters to its entire student body. Jose’s Cantina opened its doors to hard-core voters who ate chips and voted by the hour.
Lee, Gillespie and the Abbotts spent 18-20 hours a day for five weeks managing the social media blitz, but Prattville’s people earned the win.
“Honestly, we could have managed all day long,” Lee says, “but without everybody in the community deciding that this was worth going for, it never would have happened. That was probably the most amazing thing – that this community of 34,000 pulled together and then brought in the entire nation.”
Splash Pad Finish Line
The win secure, community spirit continued. The Alabama Department of Environmental Management provided a $42,000 grant for the splash pad surface. The County Fair Association chipped in $10,000 for fencing and landscaping. Others donated benches and umbrellas.
The day the splash pad opened, children squealed with delight.
“I did this for my son, Preston,” Jeremy Abbott says. “Seeing how excited he was, I remember thinking that we did something awesome.”
Check out more ways to enjoy the outdoors in Prattville.