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What a Name!
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Some cities adopt slogans as a way to build identity and attract tourism. Perhaps one of the most recognized is “Icebox of the Nation,” the label adopted by International Falls, Minnesota, that alludes to the city’s claim to be coldest U.S. city outside of Alaska.

Spirited discussion has been taking place about this nickname. According to USA Today on January 29, 2007, “. . .local business boosters say the city’s trademark gives the wrong impression. . .the nickname conjures images of a perpetually frozen, treeless tundra instead of the rugged and beautiful four-season vacation spot that attracts people from as far south as Florida. . . .While the nickname pleases automobile companies that conduct cold-weather testing there, the city’s frigid notoriety makes it difficult to recruit new businesses, doctors, and workers for the local paper mill.”

Icebox Days

While the annual average temperature is 36.4 degrees, some leaders of the 6,300-member community located on the U.S./Canada border convinced festival planners to cancel the annual “Icebox Days” winter festival in mid-January. Instead, the Chamber of Commerce planned a “Blast on the Border” for Presidents Day weekend, February 15-18—a slightly warmer time. Reasons for the change included low attendance (in recent years “the festival drew 800 to 1,000 out-of-towners”). Sometimes sub-zero temperatures or a lack of snow also have forced cancellation of “Icebox Days.”

Despite the change in name, the festival still takes place in winter. The 10K race named “Freeze Yer Gizzard Blizzard Race” is still part of the festivities. It usually attracts several hundred racers. Other events include “frozen-turkey bowling, snow sculpting, and smoosh races, the latter a peculiar event in which teams of four people compete with a whole team’s feet fastened to a pair of 2-by-4 boards.

So, how did things turn out? This year the area experienced January-type temperatures and snowfall. And the town of Fraser, Colorado, requested the return of the nickname “Icebox of the Nation.” It seems that in 1989, International Falls paid the Rocky Mountains town $2,000 for the exclusive use of the slogan. Apparently, one community’s spurned nickname is another’s marketing dream.

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