Friday, May 22, 2009

Savannah 'Most Mannerly' as Charleston Steps Aside

Savannahians, take some pride in this. After years of almost winning the distinction of America's Most Mannerly City, you have done it. All those days of helping tourists find The Lady & Sons, of pointing the way to Forsyth Park, of waiting patiently for Girl Scout troops and horse-drawn carriages to tromp through intersections have paid off. But not quite with the prestige we might have wanted.

Savannah has won the honor for 2008, but only because our longtime competitor and northern neighbor, the city of Charleston, S.C., has graciously stepped aside.

For more than 30 years, etiquette expert Marjabelle Young Stewart compiled votes from travelers and etiquette students and then recognized the best-mannered city. Stewart died in 2007, but Cindy Grosso, founder of the Charleston School of Protocol and Etiquette, carried on the tradition. With one notable change.

Charleston, which had been ranked first for 12 straight years, would have claimed the honor again for 2008. Instead, Charleston was awarded a preservation award, which allowed the No. 2 vote-getter, Savannah, to be designated "most mannerly."

Of thousands of votes from around the nation, Grosso said, Charleston took 25 percent, while Savannah had 5 percent. "We've won it so many years, I just thought it would be nice to share," Grosso said. She will present the award to Mayor Otis Johnson at Thursday's Savannah City Council meeting.

Joe Marinelli, president of the Savannah Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, agrees Charleston's withdrawal is only further proof of its citizens' good manners. He called the recognition the highest compliment Savannah could receive but admits it doesn't come as a surprise.

"We get so many comments, phone calls, e-mails and letters from tourists who are just so complimentary of their experience in Savannah and the friendliness of the people they encounter," he said. "There's almost a 'We're glad you're here' mentality with our hospitality employees, and I think it resonates through the city."

Lesley Conn, Savannah Morning News

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