Thanks to a national competition to find the "Prettiest Painted Places in America," people across the country are discovering what Missouri residents have long known: The Show Me State has some of the most beautiful towns and neighborhoods to be found anywhere.
Sponsored by the Paint Quality Institute, whose mission is to educate the public about quality paints and coatings, the "Prettiest Painted Places" competition has drawn six entries from Missouri: Boonville, Carthage, Chillicothe, Clinton's Downtown Square, Cuba, and Lafayette Square in St. Louis.
Over the next few weeks, the six Missouri communities will vie with nearly 200 nominees from other states for regional and national honors, as judges with expertise in color selection, exterior painting, and home improvement review the entries, conduct additional research and make selected site visits. Finalists will be announced in late September, and the nation's 12 "Prettiest Painted Places" will be revealed in mid-October.
The Paint Quality Institute has conducted its competition twice before, most recently in 2000. Its purpose is to vividly show how an attractive paint color scheme can greatly enhance the "curb appeal" of any structure's exterior.
"We feel there is no better way to demonstrate the importance of exterior paint color than to focus on these beautiful real-world communities that take so much pride in their appearance," said Debbie Zimmer, paint and color expert at the Paint Quality Institute.
"The places involved in our competition are a tremendous inspiration to us all, and by giving them recognition, we hope to instill in the public a better appreciation for the role exterior paint can play in protecting and enhancing the appearance of any home or building," she said.
A wide variety of "places" have been entered in the competition -- big city neighborhoods, tiny rural towns, historical districts, "Main Streets" and communities with exterior mural programs. Nominees range from well-known places, such as Cape Cod, Massachusetts and Napa, California to hidden gems like Vashon-Maury Island, Washington and Bell Buckle, Tennessee.
In case you're curious, the names and locations of all of the nominees are posted on the Paint Quality Institute website at

Thumbnail sketches of Missouri nominees
•Boonville: Founded in 1810, the town is a historic river and railroad community on the Missouri River with more than 450 historic buildings and sites, many of them beautifully painted.
• Carthage: Burned to the ground during the Civil War, the town was reconstructed during the late 19th century mining boom when the robust economy converged with the Victorian era to produce a legacy of marvelous architecture that today can be seen in Carthage's four historic districts.
• Chillicothe: Nestled in the rolling hills of north Missouri, Chillicothe is a welcoming town with historic charm that tells a story throughout its beautiful downtown with more than 20 exquisite hand-painted murals.
• Clinton Downtown Square: The largest square in the state, Clinton's square is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and captures the city's heritage through its impressive courthouse and beautifully painted buildings, many of which date back to the 1890s.
• Cuba: "Route 66 Mural City" is a pretty town with exquisite outdoor murals and an historic business district painted in a palette of historical colors -- truly a place where art meets history.
• Lafayette Square, St. Louis: A former winner of the Prettiest Painted Places competition, the neighborhood is comprised of stately Victorian-era "painted ladies" with fine detailing that frame beautiful Lafayette Park.