The Valdosta Daily Times
Having traveled for the past five months in an RV, Jason and Nikki Wynn have seen a lot of American towns.
In many places, they have run across dilapidated buildings and dying downtowns, but not in Valdosta, Nikki Wynn said Monday. In Valdosta, the Wynns said they have seen the power of positive changes, along with the vibrancy of the area’s culture, community and people.
Valdosta was the Wynns’ second stop in their Rand McNally/USA Today’s Best of the Road journey to find the Friendliest Town in America.
Valdosta earned the second highest number of votes in the Friendliest category. Valdosta is one of six finalists for Friendliest Town, along with Walla Walla, Wash., Mount Airy, N.C., Lake Havasu City, Ariz., Woodward, Okla., and Nagadoches, Texas.
Using the rally team name “Gone with the Wynns,” the couple began their journey last Thursday.
They made their first stop in Mount Airy. This morning, they leave Valdosta for Nagadoches, followed by Woodward, Lake Havasu, Walla Walla, then Los Angeles. Meanwhile, other rally teams visit cities in other categories, including Most Beautiful, Most Patriotic, Most Fun, and Best For Food.
In L.A., the Wynns will share what they learned about each finalist town. The Wynns do not make the final decision. They share photographs, blogs, and videos from each one of their stops. Judges will refer to additional posts placed on the Best of the Road website.
In Valdosta, the Wynns took plenty of photos and video, including a recording of numerous South Georgians cheering that Valdosta is America’s Friendliest Town on the Lowndes County Courthouse square during a welcoming gathering Monday afternoon.
The Wynns arrived in Valdosta Sunday night. On Monday morning, the couple met a Valdosta welcoming committee which took them on what Jason Wynn described as “a whirlwind tour.”
The Wynns visited the Scott James radio show, King’s Grill for breakfast, the James H. Rainwater Conference Center, and Wild Adventures in the morning, said Michael R. Jetter, Valdosta-Lowndes County Conference Center & Tourism Authority interim executive director.
A police escort led the group to Covington’s for lunch, followed by a visit to the Southern Hospitality Group Workcamp. At The Crescent, the Garden Center women welcomed the Wynns to town with tea and desserts. The Wynns took a ride on a fire engine and visited the Annette Howell Turner Center for the Arts before arriving for the official welcome on the courthouse lawn.
Jason said highlights were Nikki kissing a llama at Wild Adventures and riding the fire truck.
Col. Gary Henderson, Moody Air Force Base commander, welcomed the couple. “If any of you have met anyone from Moody,” the colonel told the crowd, “you already know you are the friendliest city in America. ... Valdosta is one of the friendliest places I’ve ever been in the world.” He compared Valdosta to “Southern hospitality on steroids.”
Glenn Gregory dressed as famed gunslinger and Valdosta native Doc Holliday. Sementha Mathews, City of Valdosta public information officer, and Paige Dukes, Lowndes County clerk, presented resolutions from Mayor John Fretti and Lowndes County Commission Chairman Ashley Paulk.
The Wynns are from Dallas, Texas. Earlier this year, he decided to put his photography business on hold while she took a break from her career as a makeup artist. They began traveling the country in an RV. During their travels, the Wynns entered the contest to become a Rand McNally rally team. They won the opportunity to be a rally team and are now competing for prizes against the rally teams in the other competition categories.
The Wynns said winners in the competition should be announced in about two to two-and-a-half weeks.
For more information, or to post things, visit www.bestoftheroad.com.