updated 10/2/2006 6:06:33 PM ET 2006-10-02T22:06:33

The Big Apple. The Windy City. The Rock?

Arkansas' capital city on Monday unveiled its new nickname of "The Rock," hoping to crack the list of unforgettable metropolitan monikers across the nation. But while any good nickname takes time to take hold, officials believe many residents already see their city as The Rock.

"The nicknames that stick are the ones that are organic," said Little Rock Mayor Jim Dailey. "This is one that has been with us."

The new nickname came after a yearlong process to find a replacement to the city's former moniker, "City of Roses." Officials narrowed more than 200 suggestions to a list of six, including "America's Gem," "River City" and "Southern Comfort."

But The Rock pulled in 56 percent of the 423 votes cast in the nickname contest. And the city will embrace its new name in a monthlong "Rock-tober" festival in October, rolling out banners and other advertisements bearing the new nickname.

Dailey acknowledged providing a nickname to the city was more art than science. And as with any good nickname, it is already in use. But Dailey said he wasn't concerned the new name aligned itself with an infamous federal penitentiary or a professional wrestler turned actor.

"When people say they are going to Little Rock, I don't think it is something that is conjured up in the mind," he said.

Laurie Green, director of tourism for the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau, called the nickname "kind of cute." However, she said the new nickname likely won't affect tourism efforts, since using the same name helps build steady advertising.

"I have heard it and not in a derogatory manner, so I guess that's good," Green said. "I'm from the West Coast, so `The Rock' to me is Alcatraz."

Little Rock itself is named for the rock found by French explorer Bernard de La Harpe while mapping out the Arkansas River in 1722. Early land deeds refer to "the little rock," and to a bigger rock up river. Part of the little rock was blasted away early last century during construction of a railroad bridge.

Now, the city's namesake finds itself in the middle of Little Rock's downtown redevelopment, at the foot of its River Market. At the nickname announcement, Dailey said work would be done to expose more of the rock and provide a better display for it.

"The Rock kind of portrays something pretty solid," Dailey said. "A rock, there is something substantive about it."

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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