Shoppers check out holiday specials at LeClaire businesses on Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012.

John Schultz

LeClaire residents, shop owners and city leaders certainly think their town is cool, but they hope others agree and will help them win the designation of Coolest Small Town in America.

The Scott County river town was selected as one of 15 finalists in the Budget Travel’s eighth annual contest. The national travel magazine whittled down the list after receiving 924 nominations and more than 96,600 votes.

Donna Walley, the owner of Aunt Hattie’s Fanciful Emporium, launched the effort last fall by nominating LeClaire. In her submission, Walley said she promoted LeClaire’s Mississippi River locale, its downtown, the annual Tugfest, the Mississippi River Distilling Co. and its distinction as the home of historic figure Buffalo Bill and modern-day reality television’s “American Pickers.”

“This is such a big thing for LeClaire if we can get the word out,” said Walley, who also is the city’s former tourism manager. “I told them we’re neighbors helping neighbors and there still is a kind of town like that.”

Also in the running is Mount Carroll, Ill., located more than

60 miles northeast of the Quad-Cities. The other contenders are: Bay St. Louis, Miss.; Camden, Maine; Elkhart Lake, Wis.; Flagler Beach, Fla.; Glenwood Springs, Colo.; Greenville, Ky.; Gulf Shores, Ala.; Lititz, Pa.; Put-in-Bay, Ohio; Quincy, Calif.; Shepherdstown, W.Va.; Travelers Rest, S.C.; and Watkins Glen, N.Y.

To vote, visit Visitors to the website can cast a vote daily for their choice for America’s coolest small town. The contest runs through Feb. 15.

Although Walley said she first heard about Budget Travel’s contest about a year ago, she did not see it right away when the actual contest began and did not get LeClaire nominated until October. But she and other LeClaire supporters were so successful in spreading the word through e-mail and other means that “we ended up No. 7 in the nominations.”

“Now we have to get the word out again,” she said.

LeClaire Mayor Bob Scannell said he is pleased by the exposure his small town already is receiving from making it this far in the contest. “I might be a little biased but we have the coolest town in the nation. I think we have a lot to offer everybody.”

At 3,765 residents, LeClaire is in the middle of the pack population-wise among the 15 finalists.

Walley hopes the greater Quad-Cities will get out the vote. “I just feel the contest could bring so much attention to the Quad-Cities — not just LeClaire – and get people to come to our area.”

The winner will be featured is a full-length story with the travel magazine. is owned by IntelliTravel Media, In., along with Budget Travel magazine.