Ambassadors from the 34 cities will go to Anaheim, Calif., on June 9 to give oral presentations. A jury from the National Civic League will select 10 winning cities, giving them the right to put the “All-America City” logo on publications and signs throughout their communities.

Lewiston makes grade
City one of 34 nationwide to compete for All-America’ status

LEWISTON – Jim Bennett figures the youth are the city’s secret weapon.

He praised the Lewiston Youth Advisory Council Thursday for putting the city one step away from “All-America City” status.

“That’s one of the big differences between us and the other cities,” said Bennett, Lewiston’s city administrator. “Our youth weren’t just a part of our application. They wrote it.”

Lewiston is one of 34 finalists named Thursday in the National Civic League’s All-America City contest. A Lewiston junket – including Bennett, Mayor Lionel Guay and the youth council members – will travel to Anaheim, Calif., June 9-11 to compete head-to-head with the other 33 cities.

A jury will pick 10 winning cities, giving them the right to use the All-America City emblem on road signs, letterhead and advertisements. It’s a boost to the city’s ego and national recognition for a job well done, Bennett said.

Youth programs are a big part of the competition, according to Aleks Humeyumptewa, spokesman for the National Civic League. The contest spotlights communities that have faced difficult problems and turned them around.

“What we don’t want is to just have the mayor and his staff show up,” Humeyumptewa said. “We want to see the diversity of the applicants, and that includes the youth.”

Lewiston’s application was written by the youth council, a group of 11 high school students appointed by the City Council to take on certain community-oriented tasks.

The application is a 20-page summary of good things that have happened in Lewiston over the past few years, from landing the Lewiston Maineiacs Quebec Major Junior semi-professional hockey team to being named one of the top 100 places to do business by Inc. Magazine.

“It all comes down to the realization that Lewiston is not a terrible place to live, or to raise a kid in or to work in,” Bennett said. “It’s a good place, and now that will be recognized nationally.”

Fewer contestants

Lewiston was also helped by a thinner-than-normal list of competitors. Humeyumptewa said 50 communities had planned to submit applications, but 14 of them dropped out at the last minute. That meant only two of the cities that applied didn’t make the cut Thursday.

Lewiston is the only New England city to make the 2006 list. Maine’s competitors for the honors range from tiny Braselton, Georgia, to Columbus, Ohio – with a population of 728,432, the largest city on the list.

Ambassadors from the 34 cities will go to Anaheim, Calif., in June to give oral presentations. Humeyumptewa said size doesn’t matter in the competition, and neither does technology. Organizers banned audio-visual presentations several years ago.

“We had some communities that did full satellite uplinks, and that was just too much,” Humeyumptewa said. “The smaller communities felt they just couldn’t compete and jury felt they got so caught up in the technology they weren’t getting their point across.”

Competitors have 10 minutes to recap their written application, and then 10 minutes to answer questions. They announce the 10 winning cities on June 11 at the special ceremony.

Youth council members went right back to work Thursday, planning their presentation. Bennett said he expected to bring a group of 30 to 40 to participate in the competition.