The city of New Albany has been named “America’s Best Southern Small Town” for 2017 by the national newspaper, USA TODAY.
Earlier this year the city was named as one of twenty nominations by a panel of travel writers and experts. The nominations were then posted on the USA TODAY 10 best website, and readers were asked to vote on which town they felt should receive the honor. After a four-week voting period, winners were announced on Friday, April 28.
“Our nomination has already brought in visitors,” says Sean Johnson, the city’s director of tourism. “Earlier this week we had a couple come in from Madison, Georgia, on their way to New Orleans. They made the side trip to New Albany to ‘check us out’ because their town was also a nominee.” Madison, a small town outside of Atlanta which is known for its antique shops, came in 6th on the list. “They spent the night and were very complementary of our downtown.”
New Albany started off strong in the voting, but Eureka Springs, Ark., which ended up in the runners up spot, and Travelers Bend, SC, battled hard for the number one spot, knocking New Albany down the list a few times over the course of voting.
“We were worried about some of these towns,” says Johnson. “Many of them are right outside of much larger markets and Eureka Springs is a nationally-known location with over 65,000 Facebook followers. We simply shouldn’t have been able to beat these guys, but everyone pulled together and got out the vote.”
Johnson says in addition to the individuals and fans of New Albany that voted, many of whom voted every day, that the Rotary Club, local banks, the hospital, the UCDA, Main Street and other businesses and organizations encouraged their members and employees to vote. “This was definitely a big part of New Albany taking an early lead and eventually winning the number one spot.”
New Albany was one of two towns nominated from Mississippi, with the other being Water Valley. The other towns rounding out the top ten are:
2. Eureka Springs, Ark.
3. Blowing Rock, N.C.
4. Travelers Rest, S.C.
5. Lexington, Va.
6. Madison, Ga.
7. Sanibel Island, Fla.
8. Lewisburg, W.V.
9. Wilson, Ark.
10. Highlands, N.C.
Other towns nominated included Abbeville, S.C.; Apalachicola, Fla.; Breaux Bridge, La.; Dahlonega, Ga.; Gruene, Texas; Jonesborough, Tenn.; Magnolia Springs, Ala.; Middleburg, Va.; St. Franciscville, La. and Water Valley, Miss.
It’s a great honor…only one town could be named number 1 and it is us for 2017, and I think that we’re seeing this growth and recognition happen right before our eyes…It’s a super time to be in New Albany.”
Johnson says that the city will be able to now use the tagline, “Named by USA TODAY readers as ‘America’s Best Southern Small Town’” in its advertising.
“I think that might do us a little good…certainly doesn’t hurt.”
USA TODAY, the nation’s number one newspaper in print circulation with an average of more than 1.6 million daily, and USATODAY.com, an award-winning newspaper website launched in 1995, reach a combined 6.6 million readers daily.