Thanks to a national competition the “Prettiest Painted Places in America,” people across the country are discovering what North Carolina residents have long known: The Tar Heel state has some of the most beautiful towns and neighborhoods 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 three entries from North Carolina. The nominees are Edenton, Raleigh’s Historic Oakwood neighborhood, and from just down the road, Statesville. Over the next few weeks, the three North Carolina communities will vie with 200 nominees from other states for regional and national honors. Finalists will be announced later this month, and the nation’s 12 “Prettiest Painted Places” will be revealed in mid-October.