Written by Yves Jeffcoat

In light of March Madness, Garden & Gun established the Greatest Southern Town bracket, in which 32 towns in 14 states competed for the winning title.

Savannah residents and enthusiasts showed their devotion for Savannah in the hopes of the city’s victory. Leopold’s Ice Cream, a popular ice cream shop on Broughton Street, even promised to throw a $1 ice cream party if Savannah won.

On April 2, after beating Key West, Fla., Thomasville, Ga., Charleston, S.C., and Asheville, N.C., Savannah was up against Franklin, Tenn., in the finals.

Two days and 90,000 votes later, Garden & Gun announced that Franklin won the bracket.

Just a day after Savannah’s loss to Franklin, Visit Savannah, the city’s destination marketing organization, sent a gift basket to the marketing team at the Williamson County Convention & Visitors Bureau, which represents Franklin.

Since the founding of the bracket on March 17, Garden & Gun readers sounded off on Twitter about their favorite towns using the hashtag #SouthernTowns.

“This is what you call awesome! Thanks @visitsavannah! So incredibly kind!!! #SouthernTowns,” said the WCCVB in their Instagram caption of the photo of the gift basket.

There were no hard feelings between the top two contestants.

“It was a great competition. We thought it was appropriate to thank them,” said Erica Backus, the Director of Public Relations for Visit Savannah.

“It’s the people, the friendliness and the southern hospitality,” said Backus, recognizing the similarities between the two finalists.

Up until the competition’s last moments the magazine updated its readers on the numbers and percentages of the final round votes via Twitter, cautious to not ruin the surprise.

Many users urged others to vote for Savannah. Franklin’s win, according to the Garden & Gun editors, was the result of “homegrown support and some clever use of social media.”

In the end, the bracket didn’t just crown Franklin as the Greatest Southern Town but, as Garden & Gun’s editors also commented, it “brought some attention to the wonderful places to live and visit in Dixie.”

“It’s a testament to the loyalty that people have to these destinations,” Backus said.

The contest garnered 1.3 million votes total.