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Sunday, July 15, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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McGillicuddy name is the toast of the town

The Associated Press

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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 corporate sellout.

But as residents scrambled Friday to prepare for the mock bank robbery, parade and barrel races at this weekend's McGillicuddy Days, they clearly had no regrets about their decision.

Winning a 1998 contest did more than change the name of the north-central North Dakota town. By renaming itself McGillicuddy City U.S.A, the town of 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 smarting 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 expected more than 2,000 people to eat, drink and party this weekend.

While nobody credits the liquor deal, the 2000 census even showed the town added 36 residents over the past decade — growing to 275 people, a rarity among this state's small, rural communities.

Sazerac, 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 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 a chance 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."

With the liquor deal set to expire in April, residents say the challenge will be to maintain the momentum of the past four years, with or without the McGillicuddy name.

"I don't think the nickname will ever really leave," said Tim Anderson, who owns the only gas station-convenience store in town. "It's been good for us. It's brought a lot of people to town. I think everyone feels like this has been a good run for us."

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