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Florence ranked No. 2 in USA Today poll: 'I couldn't believe that we didn't get number 1'

Rhody Fest arrives as the community of 8,600 earns honors from USA Today as a top destination in the Western States. (SBG)

FLORENCE, Ore. - The 110th Florence Rhododendron Festival rusn through Sunday, with carnival rides and merchants ready for the third-oldest flower festival on the West Coast.

"We expect to have between 20,000 and 35,000 people in town this week that are coming to town for the different events: the car show, the motorcycle show, the vendor fair," said Bettina Hannigan, executive director of the Florence Chamber of Commerce.

Rhody Fest arrives as the community of 8,600 earns honors from USA Today as a top destination in the Western States.

"I couldn't believe that we didn't get number one," Hannigan said. "I really couldn't; it didn't make any sense to me."

But she's still please with No. 2 of 50 among towns of 10,000 and less in the online poll.

"Florence has this amazing friendly environment and these designations just bring more awareness to that," she said.

"It recognizes first: the natural beauty, which we didn't have much to do with," Mayor Joe Henry said, "but also the efforts that have been put forth by our council and our staff over the past 2 or 3 years."

While Florence continues to work to diversify its econom, tourism remains its bread and butter.

The sector brings $127 million in business to the area annually, up 16 percent over the year prior.

But Hannigan is not predicting much of an increase in the tourism traffic for this coming year.

The main reason?

A lack of hotel/motel space.

"We need more hotel space," she said. "So if you're a developer and you'd like to build a hotel, we're ready for you."

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