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W. Dundee now home to 'Best Block in America'
Historic area to be featured on 'Good Morning America'
By Heather Linder | Daily Herald Staff

When West Dundee resident Nancy May, top center, became ill with cancer, a group of kids in the neighborhood colored part of their hair pink as a show of support for her.


Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

Residents of Old Town in West Dundee celebrate after finding out their neighborhood won the "Best Block in America" contest sponsored by "Good Morning America."


Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

West Dundee's historic area surrounding Liberty Street has been selected as the "Best Block in America" by ABC television's "Good Morning America." The town will be featured on the show July 1.


Rick West | Staff Photographer

Daniel Bruce messes with his friend Tristan Chapman's ball cap as their neighbor Jennifer Weibenga and her son Gage enjoy the group gathering Monday in Old Town in West Dundee.


Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

Logan Neuschaffer rides his bike with his friend Aaron Halley, of South Elgin Monday in Logan's West Dundee neighborhood.


Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

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Published: 6/21/2010 11:59 PM | Updated: 6/22/2010 7:50 AM

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West Dundee residents know how to celebrate, holding annual block parties, pumpkin carving nights, Christmas tree lightings and more. Now, ABC's "Good Morning America" is giving these neighbors one more excuse to rejoice, deeming the historic area surrounding Liberty Street the "Best Block in America," according to an ABC News producer.

The announcement will be official July 1 when "Good Morning America" broadcasts live from West Dundee. More information about the broadcast has not yet been released by ABC.

"I'm surprised and not so surprised (about winning)," said village President Larry Keller. "I'm surprised so many people took the time to enter the contest, but not surprised they won. They have a great neighborhood."

The picturesque neighborhood was a natural for the title, residents agree. With American flags and orange day lilies lining the streets, West Dundee's All-American feel permeates the air, a goal for the close-knit group of neighbors who wanted to build an atmosphere conducive to strong family and community.

"We have the perfect storm," longtime West Dundee resident Pam Griffin said. "We have parents who really want to make a 'Mayberry' feel for their children, a fantastic elementary school and a village board who has always wanted to help."

The Northwest and West suburbs are no stranger to national accolades for residential safety and appeal, with Naperville receiving several awards the past 10 years for best place to live and most kid-friendly town in America. The acclaim brought a boom to their economy and long-lasting interest in the city.

West Dundee waits to see if "Good Morning America's" acknowledgment will bring similar results.

"I think that the publicity we have gotten along the way has really helped us in many ways," Naperville Mayor George Pradel said. "It put us on the map. If Naperville won awards all the time, though, it wouldn't mean as much ... I'm thrilled for (West Dundee). They really have something going for them."

While "Good Morning America" will introduce West Dundee's extreme neighborliness to the nation, it's never been a secret to those who live here, many of whom moved in decades ago and never found a reason to leave. Betty Bradshaw may have lived on Liberty Street longer than anyone. She bought the home of her dreams with her husband 47 years ago. They reared four children in the community. Her husband, Jack, even served as the grand marshal for the annual parade of neighborhood children on bikes for many years.

"We just moved here because the house we liked, and I've never been sorry," Betty said. "You know you can always depend on neighbors if you need anyone. It's not a noisy area but a very active one."

Anticipation is building for the July 1 broadcast. But typical life in historic West Dundee will not be greatly altered. Kids will still be found riding bikes around town. Moms will welcome any neighborhood children into their homes for summer treats. A block-wide e-mail list will keep everyone informed of upcoming gatherings.

Even national attention cannot give these residents more motivation to do what they already do best - embrace and nurture community.

"When you're doing it, it's just fun," Griffin said. "You don't realize the effort that goes into it, but there's so many fantastic things everybody does. I'm already awestruck, and that's what matters. This is the best town in American, and that's it."