JASPER, Ind. (WEHT) – Residents in Jasper may be walking a little taller this summer after being named the Strongest Town in America.
For the past seven years, towns across the country have competed for the title in an annual contest by the non-profit called “Strong Towns.” They say that the contest focuses on “highlighting towns and cities who are doing the hard work of becoming stronger, putting in place the processes, systems, and commitments that build enduring resilience and long-term prosperity.”
Mark Nowotarski, who lives in Jasper, said “everything I knew about what they look for in a community, is everything that jasper does and everything that Jasper is about. So I thought, I’m going to go ahead and nominate them.”
Sixteen towns were chosen to go head to head in a March Madness style bracket, and in April, Jasper beat out 15 other towns in the country to be named the strongest. The town got to celebrate their new title with a ribbon cutting and a toast at their summer chow down festival.
Todd Mehringer and his wife were enjoying the food trucks and festivities on Wednesday. They grew up in Jasper and moved back from Indianapolis because they wanted their children to grow up in what they said to be a great hometown. When they heard Jasper won the contest, Todd said it was “surprising, but not surprising at the same time because we love it here. We think it’s a really great kept secret.”
It’s a great kept secret that has proven to continually strive to improve their buildings and attractions and put on events to bring the community together.
Ethan Wanninger, a Jasper-native and student at Indiana University, said “I think it’s important to have all that because it just creates a strong bond between everybody and I think it just helps everybody get along better.”
Many residents say they love the outdoor activities Jasper has to offer. The area along the Riverwalk was turned into Dave Buehler Park where the community can gather for an array of activities. Across the street is the Jasper City Mill and the restored train depot. And several people said they loved the Parklands that replaced the old country club.
Laurie Mehringer said she loves that Jasper has “places for families to go and do things and be outside and be together and be safe.”
Through this competition, there is now inspiration for the future. Nowotarski said “we got to learn from the other cities and towns. What they’re doing, what they’ve been successful at and what their challenges are.”
Representatives from the non-profit strong towns will be making their way to Jasper to make the celebration even bigger this summer and the residents of the runner-up town of Norwood, Ohio were invited as well.