Missoula takes down Grand Rapids to make social media's Final Four


MISSOULA, Mont. - It was a close battle between Missoula and Grand Rapids, Michigan, in a social media face-off, but Missoula ended the evening victorious by a margin of 353 votes.

After last week's vote, Missoula advanced to the Elite Eight round of the competition between cities vying to host a social media tourism symposium that could boost the local economy. It's a bracket-style vote, with a different matchup each day, and voting was open for Missoula Wednesday between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Votes rolled in all day, with Missoula ending up at a total of 3,428 and Grand Rapids bringing in 3,075. Missoula held the lead all day despite a Grand Rapids population almost three times that of the Garden City.

Missoula now advances to the Final Four, with the opportunity to host the symposium and possibly bring in a quarter of a million dollars to the local economy.

NBC Montana caught up with Barb Neilan from Destination Missoula before voting closed Wednesday.

"Just an amazing day. We started out and the voting was really strong from the very beginning," Neilan said. "Within the first few minutes we had close to 100 votes. So Missoula and the state have just turned out like crazy for this, which is so much fun."

Missoula will take on Branson, Missouri, in the next round. Cleveland, Ohio, has also advanced to the Final Four. Voting for the final Elite Eight pairing is open Thursday when Huntsville, Alabama, squares off with Indianapolis, Indiana.

Voting resumes next week with rounds on Tuesday and Thursday, with the championship round set for April 2. NBC Montana will keep you updated throughout the tournament. You can also click here for more details on the voting schedule.

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