LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 18, 2012) — Two Kentucky towns were selected as winners in the Rand McNally/USA TODAY Best of the Road contest, conducted last month.
Five teams, who traveled nearly 30,000 miles visiting the finalist towns, consulted with a panel of judges and chose the five best small towns full in the country out of 650 nominated towns.
The winners were announced Tuesday in Seattle.
Bardstown, Ky., was selected the most beautiful small town. The husband-and-wife team Nikki and Dusty Green (also known as “Two for the Road”) visited the finalist towns, but were struck by the history and tradition of Bardstown.
The couple said they were smitten by downtown Bardstown’s “classic Norman Rockwell” look and feel.
“Bourbon is Bardstown’s history and tradition and the countryside is beautiful, but we probably got fewer scenic shots in Bardstown than anywhere else,” admited the Greens about their visit to central Kentucky’s Bluegrass Country. Instead, they said, “the people turned us around. We realized maybe we’re not just here to see mountains and rivers, maybe there’s something else. Our hearts are still in this place.”
Visitors to Bardstown, the Greens said, should be sure to visit the distilleries, where they can learn about bourbon’s heritage, but also see “the pride and love that goes into making Kentucky’s signature spirit.”
The Greens also praised My Old Kentucky Home State Park, site of a former plantation built in 1795.
“Being named the Most Beautiful Small Town in America is one of the most prestigious honors a community can hope to receive and we thank Rand McNally and USA Today, as well as the judges, Nikki and Dusty Green, for this incredible award,” said Kim Huston, president of the Nelson County Economic Development Agency. “The amount of national recognition that Bardstown will receive with this distinction is certainly what I consider to be priceless.”
The other Most Beautiful Town finalists were Danville, Ky.; Jim Thorpe, Pa.; Tybee Island, Ga.; Sedona, Ariz.; and Baker City, Ore.
Murray, Ky., was selected as the friendliest small town.
The “Rogue Riders” team — Jennifer Jordan and Robert Schatz of Broomfield, Colo. — visited Murray and other finalists Cloudcroft, N.M., College Station, Texas, Frisco, Texas, Joplin, Mo., and San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Murray — located less than a half hour from Kentucky Lake and the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area — ”feels like home in Murray more than anywhere else,” Jordon and Schatz said.
Its residents “had a way of bringing you in, and we made friends. This is the only town where we went into people’s homes,” the team said.
The team said Murray visitors should not miss seeing the 184-mile-long Kentucky Lake, which is lined with campsites and state and private marinas that rent houseboats, pontoons, sailboats and other craft.
The biggest surprise, Jordon and Shatz said, was the scenic campus of basketball-crazed Murray State University— home of the “shoe tree,” where college alumni who met their sweethearts at school return to attach one shoe from each partner.
The Travel Channel will air a special program on July 25 at 8 p.m. featuring the “Best of the Road” communities and the video filmed during their visits to each of the finalist towns.