What's the best small town in British Columbia?
In our quest to determine a winner of our friendly competition between 128 communities, we've focused on the things that make so many of our small towns unique.
This province's varied landscape, its many major rivers, islands and mountain ranges — it all means nearly every small town has a geography, economy and history all their own.
But if you ask individuals in each town what makes them the best, you'll get a pretty universal answer.
"The people, plain and simple," said Ian Riddick, owner of Ucluelet's Heartwood Kitchen.
"The community doesn't exist without a core of diverse and caring citizens."
It can be stunning sunsets or wicked mountain biking that draw tourists to small towns. But it's the people and bonds within the community that sustain them.
And the towns that did well in this competition exemplified that combination — they received thousands and thousands of votes from people who come to visit every year, but just as many ballots from locals that wanted to show pride for the community they call home.
But ultimately, there can only be one champion.
After six weeks of voting, we're left with Kimberley and Ucluelet, two places that reflect the breadth of the province's small towns.
The Island versus the Interior. Mountain versus ocean. Skiing versus whale watching. One of the communities furthest west in the province versus one of the communities furthest to the east.
Both towns attract visitors and long-term residents for different economic and lifestyle reasons.
At the same time, they both have a similar backstory — towns centred around particular resources for decades (in Kimberley's case mining, in Ucluelet's case fishing and forestry), followed by population decreases in the '80s and '90s as economies changed or resources dried up.
Both pivoted to tourism and recreation as selling points in the 2000s; both are among B.C.'s fastest growing small towns in the last decade.
And yet, they're both still small towns, in all that represents: there's a total of one stoplight between the two of them. There's no Tim Hortons or Boston Pizza. A trip to the nearest big city takes up most of the day, and everyone graduates from the same high school.
After more than 800,000 votes, these are the two small towns you've chosen as the best.
Until midnight on Monday, April 25, you can vote on which one will be crowned champion. We'll reveal the winner on April 29.
Until then, thanks for playing along.
Median age: 46.2.
Population growth since 2011: 22 per cent.
Renter households: 25.6 per cent.
Median total household income: $67,072.
BIPOC members as a percentage of community population: 7.9 per cent.
Typical assessed home value: $404,000
Road to the final: Defeated Invermere 55-45 per cent, Rossland 51-49 per cent, Fernie 50.5-49.5 per cent, Nelson 51-49 per cent, Osoyoos 55-45 per cent and Smithers 54-46 per cent.
Median age: 39.2.
Renter households: 29.7 per cent.
Median total household income: $61,888.
BIPOC members as a percentage of community population: 18.9 per cent.
Typical assessed home value: $705,000
Road to the final: Defeated Ahousaht 86-14 per cent, Tofino 61-39 per cent, Qualicum Beach 64-36 per cent, Cowichan Bay 70-30 per cent, Hornby Island 68-32 per cent and Lillooet 58-42 per cent.