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Capital of bad taste?

Mayor Pat Johnson did the same here on the Plateau. -
Mayor Pat Johnson did the same here on the Plateau.
— image credit:

By Kevin Hanson-The Courier-Herald

Being hailed as “The Capital of Bad Taste” might leave a nasty taste in the mouths of many communities, but it could result in a $5,000 windfall for the city of Buckley.

By virtue of a quirky contest sponsored by the self-proclaimed foulest-tasting medicine on the market, the small Plateau community is garnering nationwide attention - and, perhaps, having a bit of fun in the process.

This tale originated in the offices of a New York City advertising agency charged with leading the marketing efforts of the Buckley's brand of cough syrups. The Canadian-based company, a familiar name north of the border, is actively pursuing the United States market.

The Buckley's brand has built a unique advertising campaign, emphasizing how terrible the product tastes while countering with how well it works. The ad agency figured it would be a cute idea to contact cities named Buckley and stage a contest. There are at least three, but the battle was narrowed to communities in Washington and Illinois.

The premise is relatively simple: Residents give Buckley's a taste, make a terrible face and have their picture taken. The photos are loaded onto the company's Web site and the community with the greatest participation (as a percentage of the total population) wins.

“It's amazing what we'll do for free money,” Buckley Mayor Pat Johnson said with a laugh.

Her photo, with eyes slammed shut and tongue sticking out, adorns a large poster now being displayed throughout town. Also featured is a photo of Ardell “Goat” Goetting, who serves as village board president in Buckley, Ill.

Johnson almost bypassed the opportunity to participate in the offbeat battle.

“At first, I thought it was some kind of a hoax,” she said, recalling when an e-mail from the New York agency landed in her in-box. After giving the matter some consideration, however, Johnson responded, setting things in motion.

Soon, her picture was taken at City Hall, posters were printed and mailed and the contest is featured on the Buckley's Web site. Everything comes to a head Dec. 10, the final day photos can be submitted.

Johnson said the city is having fun with the contest, but aiming to win, too.

The payoff is $5,000 that can be used for the community good. Johnson said the plan is to use the cash for the coming youth center, now in the early stages. Additional money is needed, she said, for things like landscaping and, inside, tables and chairs.

As an added bonus, the winning community will receive 600 bottles of Buckley's.

To kick-start the contest, Buckley's provided the city with eight disposable cameras and a supply of the awful-tasting medicine.

Johnson, obviously, is hoping community members will respond to the challenge and post their contorted mugs on the company's site. She said city staff will be at the annual Christmas tree auction on Dec. 8, giving people the opportunity to sample Buckley's and have their photo taken. The city will make sure the pictures get posted.

There's an added bonus for those who participate. The company is sponsoring a second contest, open to anyone who posts their picture online, even if it's not for the “Battle of the Buckleys.” The overall winner will be treated to an Alaska cruise and there's a list of smaller prizes.

Just as Johnson is aiming for victory, so are the folks in Buckley, Ill.

According to the weekly Paxton Record, a community event is planned for Tuesday evening in one the small Illinois town's taverns. Along with a chili cookoff, pictures will be taken of anyone willing to participate. The hope is to get 50 mug shots on the night.

Buckley, Ill., a village of just 450, is in Iroquois County, sharing a border with Indiana.

Kevin Hanson can be reached at khanson@courierherald.com.

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