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Bardstown was officially named the “Most Beautiful Small Town in America” Tuesday, something that made Kim Huston scream with joy.
“I feel like one of those parents whose child just won Miss America,” Huston, president of the Nelson County Economic Development Agency, said just minutes after hearing the news. “Now I know what that feels like.”
Bardstown was announced the winner during a press conference in Seattle, Wash. Anne Ballard, director of downtown development, attended the conference on behalf of Bardstown.
Huston said she was flooded with calls from Nikki and Dusty Green, who visited Bardstown June 22 as part of the judging process, congratulating her on the news.
“They said they were really proud to recommend us,” Huston said.
Bardstown vied for the title of “Most Beautiful Small Town in America” against Danville, Sedona, Ariz., Jim Thorpe, Pa., Baker City, Ore., and Tybee Island, Ga. The nationwide competition, sponsored by Rand McNally and USA Today, had 650 towns competing in five categories: most beautiful, most patriotic, most fun, best for food and friendliest.
Nikki and Dusty began their quest for the “Most Beautiful Small Town in America” June 15 and ended July 13. When the duo arrived in Bardstown June 22, they were immediately greeted with a welcoming parade in their honor. The duo also visited several local points of pride, including Willett Distillery, Heaven Hill Distillery, the farmers’ market, My Old Kentucky Dinner Train, My Old Kentucky Home, Circa, The Balloon Lady Shop and Mammy’s Kitchen.
One thing Huston said the team wanted to showcase to Nikki and Dusty was how beautiful Bardstown is inside and out, since they knew the competition was going to be tough.
“We were competing against oceans, mountains and the red rocks of Sedona, Ariz.,” Huston said. “Those things are hard to compete against, but the spirit (Bardstown) showed pushed us over the top. In the back of my mind, I knew (Bardstown) was the most beautiful. It was just about convincing the judges.”
Another aspect that Huston thinks made Bardstown stand out was that her wedding was the same weekend Nikki and Dusty were in town. The couple decided to stop by the wedding and have some fun.
“They crashed my wedding,” Huston joked. “In how many communities can you crash a wedding?”
Nikki and Dusty, who blogged about their experiences in the six towns up for “Most Beautiful Small Town in America,” said they’ll never forget the memories they made in Bardstown.
“The people of Bardstown have brought us in, we feel like family,” Nikki said in a press release. “I feel like we made lifelong friends.”
Since Bardstown was officially named “Most Beautiful Small Town in America,” it will be featured in the 2014 Rand McNally Road Atlas and in an article in USA Today.
To Huston, that amount of exposure is priceless.
Bardstown’s road to “Most Beautiful Small Town in America” began after Huston noticed a column in USA Today that asked, “Is your town the next Best Small Town in America?”
From then on, Huston and her colleagues were on a mission: get Bardstown named as one of the “Best Small Towns in America.”
“We knew we were going to make this happen,” Huston said.
She noted the process was a communitywide effort, in which everyone played an integral role.
“(This award) goes to everyone in Bardstown,” Huston said.
A program featuring the Best of the Road communities, with videos filmed during each visit, will be broadcast 8 p.m. July 25 on the Travel Channel, according to a press release.
“I’m just in shock,” Huston said. “I swear to goodness I don’t think I’ve ever experienced something like this in my professional life. This is an iconic day for Bardstown. Now we’ve just got to figure out some way to celebrate.”
JENNIFER CORBETT can be contacted at email@example.com.