Danville put its best face forward, but in the end the town’s Old Kentucky neighbor to the west, Bardstown, gets to claim the title of “most beautiful small town in America.”
When the results of the month-long Rand McNally/USA Today Best of the Road Rally were announced Tuesday afternoon, it was the second stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail that had its name called ahead of finalists Danville, Jim Thorpe, Pa., Tybee Island, Ga., Sedona, Ariz., and Baker City, Ore. The winner will be featured in the Rand McNally road atlas and electronic products.
Jennifer Kirchner, executive director of the Danville-Boyle County Convention and Visitors Bureau, admitted her competitive nature made it tough to swallow not winning, especially when the competition was so close to home. She said Bardstown was a worthy victor that should bring more visitors to the area.
“It was a great experience, even though you have that feeling of being so close but yet so far,” Kirchner said. “It will be a positive for us in the long run. Danville is one of the more popular places to actually stay the night on the Bourbon Trail.”
Kirchner had been on the job for only a matter of weeks when the competitors came to town, and she credited the experience with introducing her to many of the town’s people and beautiful places. She said the CVB will work on new literature soon that will feature the contest logo and tout the city’s consideration for the honor.
The contest already has brought some unexpected attention and Internet notoriety as online videos allowed people to follow the teams who judged each town. This year’s Best of The Road Rally generated more than a billion media impressions, which is a way of quantifying the number of times people view any kind of Tweet, blog post, video or other online tidbit featuring the contest.
Kirchner said Danville should get another boost when the Travel Channel airs a special about the contest at 8 p.m. July 25, and the Great American Doll House Museum will get web advertising on travelchannel.com for a year. Numerous people already have called the CVB offices from around the country requesting information for potential visits based on what they already have learned through the competition, Kirchner said.
Dusty and Nikki Green, who went by the handle “Team Two for the Road” during the contest, won $10,000 for their efforts in chronicling their visits to Danville and the other five finalists for “most beautiful small town.” Now back in their Austin, Texas, home after four weeks of long drives and little sleep, Dusty Green said deciding which town was most beautiful was a tough, tear-jerking process.
The last call on which town would be named most beautiful ultimately fell to group of judges who heard hour-long presentations from the teams judging all of the categories.
“In the end, it was really a gut feeling more than anything else,” Green said. “Each of the towns, including Danville, was beautiful in a really distinct way.”
Deciding what beautiful means was part of the challenge. Many people, including some of those from the towns the Greens visited along the way, asked the team why they needed to visit the other destinations considering the breathtaking vistas of Sedona, Ariz., draw people, including many artists, from all over the world.
Green acknowledged it is hard to top Sedona for natural beauty, but the couple judged each town on its own merits. They gave significant weight to the feeling they got from the townspeople and the amount of buy-in the community had to the competition. The lasting lesson the Greens took from the trip was a positive outlook on people in small towns across the country.
While they know they got the red carpet treatment for a reason during many of their stops, Dusty Green said the couple were blown away by the decency of those they met when the cameras weren’t rolling.
“This trip has really reaffirmed our faith in people,” Green said. “It sounds cliched, but it’s really true. You can really become soured because travel becomes such a stressful experience. We met so many genuinely good people.”
Murray, Ky., was named the “friendliest” town in America.