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El Dorado leading in national 'best small town' culture competition

Voting open through Oct. 25; local residents urged to help El Dorado win by Tia Lyons | October 14, 2021 at 12:00 a.m.
El Dorado was leading in USA Today's Readers' Choice 10Best competition for Best Small Town Cultural Scene as of Wednesday afternoon. (News-Times file)

El Dorado is sitting atop a national poll in a contest to determine the Best Small Town Cultural Scene in the country, and Main Street El Dorado is encouraging local residents to cast their votes until the Oct. 25 deadline.

The city is one of 20 nominees in the USA Today Readers' Choice Awards that celebrates small towns -- those with populations of 25,000 or less -- across the country and the culture and amenities they have to offer.

USA Today's 10Best invited a panel of travel writers to help select 20 nominees for each Readers' Choice Awards category.

Americans are asked to take part in a poll to whittle the selection down to the top 10 small communities in the U.S.

There are six categories, including Best Small Town Cultural Scene, Best Small Town for Shopping, Best Small Coastal Town, Best Small Town Food Scene, Best Historic Small Town and Best Small Town for Adventure.

As of Wednesday, El Dorado was leading the 19 other nominees in the Best Small Town Cultural Scene and MSE board members said local residents can help keep El Dorado in the running for top 10 by casting their ballots.

USA Today's 10Best describes El Dorado as "rich in both Southern Charm and cultural appeal," with an offering of multiple cultural events -- including festivals and live music and performing arts shows -- each year.

Holly McDonald, administrative assistant for Main Street El Dorado, noted that Eureka Springs is the only other Arkansas city in Best Small Town Cultural Scene category.

Eureka Springs sat in the seventh position Wednesday.

Ashland, Oregon, was listed in 12th place in the category.

Beth Brumley, MSE executive director, pointed out that Ashland, Oregon, was used as a model in a branding, marketing and economic development plan that was completed for El Dorado more than a decade ago.

Destination developer Roger Brooks and his team from the former Destination Development International, a firm that was based in Seattle, drafted the plan after researching the city's demographics, geography, opportunities, etc.

El Dorado was similar to Ashland, Oregon, in a number of ways, including size, distance from interstates and industry base, the study found.

Timber had once been Ashland's top industry but it was replaced by tourism, which was bolstered by theater production.

Ashland is the home of the annual Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the center of theater productions that are staged year-round in Ashland.

Ashland built a bustling economy based on tourism theater production, including multiple theaters and ancillary businesses, and other large-scale, special events that attract visitors from hundreds of miles away.

In addition to helping to create new businesses and jobs, theater production and tourism in Ashland also support existing businesses, with visitors dining, shopping and staying overnight in local establishments.

Brooks and DDI recommended the Festival City branding idea and It's Showtime! tagline for El Dorado -- which led to the formation of the Murphy Arts District.

Voting for the USA Today 10Best contest will continue until Oct. 25. Participants may place one vote per day. The 10 best small towns will be announced Nov. 5.

"You can vote every day until then," Brumley said.

To vote in the USA Today 10Best poll, visit www.10best.com/awards.

Print Headline: El Dorado leading in national 'best small town' culture competition

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