State park lovers look to Coke for funding

Screenshot of Coca-Cola's livepositively.com.

Steve Chiotakis: Today's the final day of voting in Coca-Cola's contest to help a financially-strapped American park. The park with the most votes will get $100,000. And last we checked, Oak Park in Minot, N.D. was leading with nearly 3.2 million votes.

Marketplace's Jennifer Collins now on the business of online contests.

Jennifer Collins: Shaun Sipma is a news anchor at KXMC in North Dakota, where the town of Minot has rallied around Oak Park.

Shaun Sipma: I know there are certain offices in town where they have the communal computers that people use, and one page is open at all times to vote for Minot.

The frenzy has even swept his office.

Sipma: My co-anchor at the 6 o'clock, she was voting during the commercial breaks on the news.

Oak Park suffered millions of dollars in damage from floods this year, so it could use the money to recover. So could Soudan Underground Mine State Park in Minn., which was hit by a fire. And so could McGrath State Beach in Calif., which is slated for closure.

Cindy Crawford: So a group of about 10 of us, we would stay up all night long voting.

That's California resident Cindy Crawford -- not the model. Coke allows people to vote as often as they want. And she says the site is faster in the wee hours.

Beth Kanter is co-author of "The Networked Nonprofit," and has studied online contests.

Beth Kanter: What happens is usually these contests have a lot of money and so it encourages people to figure out how to game the system.

Kanter says for the companies that might not be a bad thing, because every time voters go online, they get a product pitch.

Denise Mayer votes about 100 times a day for Oak Park. She says the voting has gotten her thinking about her favorite beverage.

Denise Mayer: I drink only Coke, not Diet Coke. The straight-up diesel Coke.

What else is going to fuel her constant clicking?

I'm Jennifer Collins for Marketplace.

About the author

Jennifer Collins is a reporter for the Marketplace portfolio of programs. She is based in Los Angeles, where she covers media, retail, the entertainment industry and the West Coast.
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First i want to start by saying that IF Coke were to go to "once a day voting to even the playing field" they would be just like every other contest. I am from Minot, i am an Oak Park voter and also help run a Oak Park group page. We have had a very dedicated group of voters and supports who want nothing more then to rebuild our parks, our community, and our lives. North Dakotans do not give up and we care about everyone. Cincinnati Park Board actually backed out of the contest AND encouraged their voters to Help Minot and Oak Park in this contest. NOW that is amazing, which only fired us (Oak Park) up even more!! Joplin MO has become great friends of ours, and we are dedicated to helping eachothers cities. This contest doesnt end here, we have made so many wonderful friends throughout the world and have made our new sister cities Cincinnati and Joplin. Caring goes along ways, and big hearts are across the nation. EACH park in this contest did a WONDERFUL job.

All parks, whether they receive one of the 3 grants, are in the top ten shown on the Coca-Cola site, or didn't have the support needed to get them that high, could use the money. Last year, Coca-Cola only gave one grant...this year they are giving 3, which is a move in the right direction. Next year, I hope they will make the contest a little more fair, by allowing one vote a day, and shortening the time period for voting. That might give the parks that tried to make it into the top 10, for the pride of it, an even chance.

There is a very strong story behind all the voting for Oak Park. The flood waters came and poured through 4100 homes for over a month, leaving 12,000 people homeless and helpless. When we discovered this contest, that gave many of us the ability to do something to help rebuild. We had our 15 minutes of fame and then the world forgot about us and what it will take to rebuild. This contest was our chance to help bring a little beauty back into our city. And we were determined to do that as evidenced by our initial climb from 141st place to first in 3 days, with over 400,000 votes. But Minot still has a long way to go.

Know this was in the business section, but so many more interesting stories about the Oakaholics than what was reported...especially why tiny little Minot has such loyal supporters.

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