Fairfield Ledger: Smithsonian Magazine names Fairfield 7th best small town in America to visit

Smithsonian: Fairfield seventh best small town

By ANDY HALLMAN | Mar 22, 2013

Smithsonian Magazine has named Fairfield the seventh best small town in America to visit.

Fairfield will be featured in the April edition of the magazine along with the other small towns that made the top 10 list.

Smithsonian Magazine sent a writer to Fairfield for the weekend of Jan. 26-27. Fairfield Area Chamber of Commerce director Nancy Morrissey gave the writer, Susan Spano, a tour of the town when she came to visit.

Spano visited numerous businesses and attractions while she was here. She went to the ICON Gallery, Maasdam Barns, Maharishi University of Management’s Sustainable Living Center, Sky Factory, Creative Edge Mastershop, Café Paradiso and many other places.

“Having spent a full day and a half with Susan Spano, I was convinced that we were going to be chosen as one of the top 10 small towns to visit in 2013,” Morrissey said. “Susan was charmed with the warmth and intimacy of Fairfield, fascinated with Fairfield’s sustainability lifestyle and entranced by our diversity, infusion of culture and entertainment and strong appreciation of our history.”

Morrissey said her only regret from Spano’s visit was that she did not get to visit Carnegie Museum. A combination of rain and freezing temperatures made travel difficult that weekend and the museum could not be open.

Morrissey created Spano’s itinerary for the weekend. She said it was difficult to decide on which sites to visit since Spano had limited time and because most of her tour was done on a Sunday when many establishments are closed.

Spano stayed at the MainStay Inn, where she had breakfast with a number of leaders in the community. Morrissey said Spano liked that, since it was a change of pace from the formal presentations she had received from community leaders in other towns.

Ken Chawkin, the media relations coordinator at Maharishi University of Management, was with Spano as she toured M.U.M., including the Sustainability Living Center. She met with David Fisher, chair of the Department of Sustainable Living, and Jon Lipman, who has designed all the buildings on campus since 2000. Those two gave Spano a presentation on what the Sustainability Living Center was all about.

“She was very impressed with the Sustainability Center,” Chawkin said.

The Smithsonian photographer, Charles Ledford, took a photo inside the Maharishi Patanjali Dome, which appears on the Smithsonian’s website above its article on Fairfield. Chawkin said Ledford was very appreciative of being allowed into the dome. Ledford also took photographs at Eco Village and inside Café Paradiso. Chawkin said Ledford got to hear a local Celtic band practice. Tim Britton even played a special tune for Spano when she visited the café.

The Fairfield residents Spano spoke with were interested to know if Fairfield would make the top 20 or even the top 10 list.

“She told us at breakfast that Fairfield kept coming up highly in their selection criteria,” Chawkin said. “Ours was the only town where she sat at a table to have brunch with people. She felt that was very warm and friendly.”

Fairfield Mayor Ed Malloy was with Spano for part of her tour.

“Susan was openly impressed with Fairfield,” he said. “She was not hiding her enthusiasm about what she was seeing.”

Malloy said he and other Fairfield residents were hopeful they could make a positive impression on Spano to propel the town into the top 10.

“The news that we’re No. 7 is thrilling,” he said. “It acknowledges all the work we’ve been doing to promote our community, and it helps us stay current in defining how Fairfield is a great place to live and raise a family.”

Malloy said some members of the tour group were worried the bad weather that weekend wouldn’t give them the opportunity to put the best possible face on the town.

“To get that objective verification that we make that big of an impression on an outside organization or person is wonderful,” he said. “We really are a small town with limited resources.”

One resource that is not in short supply in town is friendly people. Malloy said visitors to town can sense the warmth of the city’s residents.

“The friendliness and compassion we have for our community shines through to people from outside,” he said.

Terry Monmaney, executive editor of Smithsonian Magazine, said he started the search for the best small towns by consulting with the geographic information services company Esri. Esri contains information about the services and amenities of virtually every town in the country.

“We asked Esri to look at towns under 15,000 people and check them for a couple dozen different cultural features or assets, such as museums, performance stages, parks, galleries, amusement parks and the like,” he said. “That resulted in a list of a few dozen high-scoring towns ranked by the number of assets.”

Smithsonian Magazine then narrowed those results further to achieve a ratio of the number of “cultural assets” per capita, which was mostly responsible for determining a town’s ranking.

“For the overall list we were looking for geographic range, editorial mix and what might be called freshness,” he said. “Fairfield met all those criteria and then some.”

Posted with permission from The Fairfield Ledger.

(I forgot to mention that “Stretch” Ledford, the Smithsonian photographer, had also visited MUM’s organic greenhouse and took some amazing photos of Steve McLaskey with an armful of vegetables he and his wife Susie had just picked.)

See The Smithsonian’s 20 Best Small Towns to Visit in 2013. Fairfield, Iowa is in the Top 10 (No. 7). KTVO: Fairfield makes Top 10 in list of small towns to visit. Des Moines Register: Iowa town ranks No. 7 on list of Best Small Towns to Visit.

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