Texas State Fair
We've heard bluesmen dish their love for "Sweet Home Chicago," Rat Pack crooners who want to be a part of New York, New York, and rappers who "Put On" for their city -- when it comes to local pride, cities seem to be well-represented. Once you expand past towns into more drawn borders, though, the concept of "regional pride" and "state pride" gets a little more murky. As a resident of Missouri, my state pride remains murkier than the Mississippi.
Then I met Coloradans. And Texans. Give them a few minutes to explain why and minutes might turn into hours.
But what about Iowa? Rhode Island? Wyoming? How can we define what "state pride" is?
We polled our Twitter and Facebook communities to get a true sense of state and regional pride -- where it seems to overflow and why -- and the results, while completely unscientific, were pretty interesting. We've made a composite of our findings thru this quick poll and a little research in other areas, such as national listings and history. Without further ado, let's take a look at some of the best-represented states and regions and try to examine the possible roots of their high self-esteem. And we're gonna stick to just American states for this week -- sorry, international friends! Let's use these states as a jumping-off point toward discussion:
Population, Nov. 2008: 4,861,515
What's the big idea? Solidarity through struggle. It's a common storyline, and states in the Wild West like Colorado were no stranger to struggle from the outset, forced to forge communities in an unknown land while regularly, y'know, climbing mountains to obtain necessities.
The frontier has evolved. Now that they've conquered the rugged Rockies, Coloradans devote most free time to a) outdoor activities and b) touting their ability to engage in such outdoor activities. Such fanaticism can be infectious -- there's little denying that the Rockies afford visitors jaw-dropping views and opportunities. Maybe we can attribute the rosy demeanor to one of the Coloradan's favorite talking points: "300 days of sunshine per year," a pretty staggering number if really true. The good news: Natives are pretty swift to welcome outsiders, which has rendered the state one of the most steadily-growing populations in the United States. This time of the year, top opportunities take the form of one of the best all-around ski destinations on the planet.
The Colorado Board of Tourism has taken it upon themselves to tempt curious non-natives to experience their state's greatness. You can either enter to win a fabulous ski getaway or make the dream reality this instant by booking a ski trip starting at just $93 per person / per night. Not bad, eh?
Travelers' takes: "Beautiful. Endless amounts of stuff to do." - Michael M.
"Talk about a good place to ski! MANY family trips here, great memories! - Grayson W.
"One of the few states that I would consider moving to! Colorado captured my heart as a kid visiting my Uncle's ranch in Mancos (just south of Durango) but we've been back several times to Breckenridge, Denver, Vail and Colorado has never disappointed us!!" - Aimey B.
"Home for most of my life. Can't match the physical beauty or the weather anywhere in the country if you like 4seasons." - Jonathan Paul H.
Population, Nov. 2008: 24,326,974
What's the big idea? Aside from the solidarity-via-struggle angle, there's another prevailing correlation between what sets aside certain states' pride from colleagues: Size. If you've ever encountered a Texan (you can't really avoid the apparel / bumper stickers), their unofficial state motto -- "Everything's Bigger" -- underscores the fact of the sheer massiveness of the land within. If Texas were its own country, it would rank 40th in size on Earth in area, and a place with the ability to throw its weight around typically doesn't hesitate to flaunt that fact, no?
But it extends past just size. Remember the Alamo? Few states in the union can boast not only the size of a country but the independent spirit of one, and the Lone Star State's previous standing as its own sovereign Republic and the adversity that came in its early existence has created a burning nationalism that continues to this day.
By the way, while they've got a head start in population, as of late January, Texas has so far swept the honor of the most popular state of the "I Bet (My State) can reach 1,000,00 fans first" Facebook derby recently. What says more about state pride than joining a Facebook fan page about your state adoration? You guessed it: Not much, but somehow still intriguing.
Travelers' takes: "El Paso, San Antonio, Ft. Worth even though I was born in Michigan I've lived in enough Texas cities to be Texan. The Hill Country between Austin and San Antonio has long been on my radar as a place to retire." - Will B.
"I love Texas! It is BIG and there are many places to eat, drink, and have a good time. Texas BBQ is the best!" - Joyce Rich N.
Population, Nov. 2008: 5,220,393
What's the big idea? Plain and simple: Live through a Minnesota winter. Over 5 million toil through it each year, but in between they make the most of it with a love of hockey and other winter sports. Once you make it through one bad Minnesota winter, it's enough to build a distinct sense of camaraderie -- specially when there's enough to look forward to when the ice finally melts. The de-frost opens up its residents to over 10,000 natural lakes and stunning Upper Midwest scenery, a fine reward for survival.
Minnesota attracts 1.8 million visitors a year to its state fair, which is a significant number considering many state fairs seem to be obligatory events booked up with has-been musicians. Minnesotans also are united by their healthiness, taking home honors as healthiest state quite a few years. Fine, we get it guys... we know we need to hit the treadmill.
Travelers' takes: "The land of 10,000 lakes and 10,000 family vacations. Up until I was 18 this was the only state I had visited. My parents were born and raised MN style so I think I just might have a little MN style myself :)." - Jennifer W.
"Cold Cold Cold....the nicest people in the USA though. I think they put happy crack in the water up here." - Craig J.
Population, Nov. 2008: 4,861,515
What's the big idea? When we thought about expanding the definition of "state pride" to include "regional pride," it was due in no small part to the Golden State. The culture war of NoCal vs. SoCal has raged on for ages, and each side has a strong case for its own superiority. NoCal's got San Francisco; SoCal has L.A. and San Diego. NoCal has Lake Tahoe and Yosemite Valley; SoCal has Hollywood.
If a Californian were pressed for an answer on whether they had state pride regardless of their regional neighbors, though, you can bet they'd say yes. Like Texas, California's gigantic surface area, population density and past of adversity gives it oomph as a decision maker. And few states also represent a state of mind to its neighboring states like Cali can.
But is it simply too big to love through and through, warts and all? Californians, let us know if you have unconditional love.
Travelers' takes: "Went up highway 1 from Santa Monica to San Francisco..most beautiful place on earth...I really love San Francisco..everything is white and the hills are huge!! Went to wine country in Napa..could live there forever!!" - Dixie D.
"My home, I love it, nothing like it, Love Gilroy, love the foothills, love the food, culture, sunshine and garlic." - Andrea B.
Honorable Mentions: Vermont, Alaska, Wisconsin, Hawaii, Massachusetts
Who would you nominate? Who are we missing? Are we full of b.s.? Let us have it in the comments.
(image credits: StevenM_61, joshgray, jpellgren)