The City of New Albany has been named "America's Best Southern Small Town" for 2017 by USA Today.
The announcement came Friday, April 28, following a four-week voting period.
New Albany is one of 20 municipalities nominated by a travel writers and experts earlier in 2017. The nominations were posted on the USA Today 10best website and readers were asked to vote for the town they felt should receive the honor.
According to Sean Johnson, New Albany's director of tourism, the nomination had already attracted several visitors.
“Earlier this week we had a couple come in from Madison, Ga., on their way to New Orleans," Johnson said. "They made the side trip to New Albany to ‘check us out’ because their town was also a nominee. They spent the night and were very complementary of our downtown.”
In the end, the contest came down to a three-town battle, with Eureka Springs, Ark. and Travelers Bend, S.C. nearly knocking New Albany out of first place at different points in the voting process.
“We were worried about some of these towns,” Johnson said. “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 said New Albany received the top honor not only because individuals voted on a daily basis, but local businesses and organizations encouraged their members and employees to vote as well.
“This was definitely a big part of New Albany taking an early lead and eventually winning the number one spot.”
New Albany and Water Valley were the two Mississippi towns nominated in the contest. 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.
Johnson said 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,” he said.