Osakis came oh-so-close to advancing in a nationwide "Strongest Town Contest" but bowed out of contention after results were released on Friday, March 19.

Osakis was one of 16 towns selected as a finalist for the contest, which was put on by a national nonprofit community development organization, Strong Towns, based in Brainerd.

The competition celebrates communities that are intentionally building strong, financially resilient communities.

In round one of the contest, the town of Yellow Spring, Ohio advanced with 52% of the vote to Osakis' 48%. The Osakis/Yellow Spring match-up tied for the closest first round result.

"I’m proud of the effort that people made to get the word out on this unique opportunity," said Justin Dahlheimer, a school board member and CEO of Osakis First National Bank. "I felt we represented very well against a community that was double our size and located near a major metropolitan area. "

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Dahlheimer, Osakis Mayor Dan Wessell and City Clerk/Treasurer Angela Jacobson submitted the application for the contest.

Even though Osakis didn't win, it was still quite an accomplishment to be in the running, Dahlheimer said.

"Most people are thankful that our hard work over the years received national recognition and we will continue to keep up the good work," he said. "Who knows, maybe we’ll be back in the contest in the future! Regardless, I am proud of the positivity this contest has brought to our community and believe we have a very bright future thanks to the growing amount of support the Osakis community has received."

Organizers said they were "blown away" by the response. More than 12,000 votes were cast among the 16 towns that qualified for the bracket-style tournament. That’s 2,000 more than last year, and 4,000 more than 2019.

"A huge thank you goes out to everyone who cast their votes, and, of course, to the towns and cities chosen as this year’s 16 finalists," organizers said. "That so many people voted is testament not only to the finalists’ get out the vote efforts, but also to how great those cities are in the first place."

Here are the results of Round 1:

  • Kenmore, WA (57%) vs. Coaldale, AB (43%)

  • Bentonville, AR (53%) vs. Norfolk, VA (47%)

  • Oxford, MS (65%) vs. Ridgewood, NJ (35%)

  • Yellow Springs, OH (52%) vs. Osakis, MN (48%)

  • Middleton, WI (54%) vs. Sleepy Hollow, NY (46%)

  • Lockport, IL (62%) vs. Bellingham, WA (38%)

  • Bismarck, ND (52%) vs. Elkhart, IN (48%)

  • Northfield, VT (65%) vs. Edmond, OK (35% )

The eight winning communities will return on Monday with a new challenge: They will each share five photos from their communities and explain why they think the photos demonstrate their community's strength and resilience.

For more information, go to the website, https://www.strongtowns.org/strongesttown.