McGillicuddy City, N.D. Three years ago, leaders in this small town cut a deal with a company to change the town's name to a brand of schnapps, a move some saw as a sellout to corporate America.
But as residents scrambled to get ready for the mock bank robbery, parade and barrel races that are part of this weekend's McGillicuddy Days, it was clear they had no regrets about their decision.
Winning a 1998 contest did more than just change the name of the north-central North Dakota town. By renaming itself McGillicuddy City U.S.A, Granville received $25,000 in each of the next four years from the New Orleans-based distributor of Dr. McGillicuddy's vanilla and mint schnapps.
Construction of a community center subsidized in part by the corporate cash is planned. And residents say the annual McGillicuddy Days celebration has filled a social void and injected new money and pride into a community hurting from a depressed farm economy.
"We didn't really have anything going on here before," said Danny Seright, a rancher and board member of the local economic development corporation. "Now, this weekend event is good for business. It brings a lot of money into the town. This whole name change thing has put us on the map."
McGillicuddy Days has evolved from a simple parade in April to a three-day festival. Organizers expect more than 2,000 people will eat, drink and party here this weekend.
The McGillicuddy name has inspired a new sense of town pride. Rancher Rod Swallers' bison herd is officially registered as McGillicuddy Bison, and the McGillicuddy burger is made with what else? bison meat is a local favorite.
Homemakers have devised recipes calling for a shot or two of schnapps in cakes and brownies. For nearly a year, the bars, diners and convenience stores had a monopoly on Dr. McGillicuddy's root beer.
The Sazerac Co., the liquor importer behind the name change, held a nationwide contest to get the name McGillicuddy City, but came up with ground rules that favored the small, wintry towns that dot the Plains and upper Midwest. The winner had to be a sparsely populated town, typically blanketed in snow six months of the year and have a bar willing to adopt the name Sleepy Eye Saloon, the good doctor's favorite haunt.
Granville saw it as an opportunity to turn around its fortunes and campaigned vigorously for the title.
"Yeah, we took some flak from people, that this was the town that changed its name for money," said LaDona Machowski, another member of the economic development board. "But we're still Granville on the map. It's given us a lot of publicity. It's been very good for business."