Alamosa named nation’s no. 1 “Best Small Town Cultural Scene” by USA Today

Courtesy of Visit Alamosa Alamosa was named the nation’s ‘Best Small Town Cultural Scene’ by USA TODAY. Criteria used to nominate towns included a population of under 25,000 and outstanding examples of cultural attractions such as museums, art galleries, performing arts and a strong collection of local events.

ALAMOSA— After a month of community involvement in casting daily votes preceded by a rather stunning and highly competitive nomination process, USA TODAY announced that Alamosa has been named the winner of the “2024 USA Today 10BEST Readers’ Choice award for Best Small Town Cultural Scene”. 

“We’re definitely excited,” says Kale Mortensen, executive director of Visit Alamosa who was informed of the victory. “We’re also not surprised. We’re proud of our website and proud of our team and what we’re able to accomplish. But we’re also given such great resources with the community that we’re able to showcase - all these partners and the non-profits, like Society Hall and the Rio Grande Farm Park and too many others to name. This really is a community win. And that’s why we think this is really the best category – Best Small Town Cultural Scene. It’s everyone in the community who creates this sense of place and this culture.”

Winning this award was far from an easy accomplishment, starting with the fact that towns played no role in being nominated.  

 Instead, 20 nominees were selected by a panel of journalists, editors from USA TODAY and 10Best.com, expert contributors and sources from other Gannett properties.

Criteria used to nominate towns included a population of under 25,000 and outstanding examples of cultural attractions such as museums, art galleries, performing arts and a strong collection of local events. 

Once the panel finalized the nominees, towns were notified.

“Sometime around March, we just got an email from USA TODAY that said, 'hey you’ve been nominated in this category for this award’ and when the voting started," Mortensen says. “We found out that USA TODAY’s journalists and editors put up the nominations. So, I’m not exactly sure how that happened but we certainly felt it was well-deserved for the community. We were excited and thought about how can we make the best of this? We definitely wanted to win, so we pulled in the community and started a campaign.” 

Once notified of the nomination, voting started and lasted over the next 30 days.

 

“This campaign was truly a team effort,” says Samantha Bogle, Visit Alamosa Communications Specialist. “We all pulled together to make it possible. Beth (Sumner, destination development) and Savannah (Schlaufman, director of marketing) are rock stars and their insights, passion, and commitment to the team are truly valuable.”

“It was wire to wire,” Mortensen says, “and we watched the leader board every day. But then they took it down the last week and that’s when we got kind of anxious.”

All the work paid off. While the top ten nominees are allowed to call themselves winners by virtue of the fact that they were nominees, Alamosa actually came in with the highest number of votes. The final tally has not been shared with Mortensen.  

When it comes to what he thinks makes Alamosa so worthy of the honor, Mortensen says, “I can’t really showcase one thing over another because it’s really a collection of everything. There’s the Heritage Area and Cinco de Mayo but also just the people who are here. We always get comments on google or yelp, it’s about the warm hospitality. It’s the people. There isn’t just one thing we can point to and say, ‘this is why we’re so great.’ It’s a million little things that truly make this such a great place.”

“As a Valley Native, I feel pride and excitement and I hope others do too,” says Bogle. “I think that sometimes Alamosa gets the cold shoulder in the media so to be recognized on such a big platform for such a special reason warms my heart. We wouldn’t have been able to do this without the community’s voice.”

“I feel so grateful to be a part of such a vibrant and dynamic community,” says Elizabeth Sumner. “This recognition, on this scale, is something I hope the entire community is incredibly proud of. Community is what makes the culture and we have a truly amazing community.”

“This is such a big win for the community, to have a national spotlight on the rich culture of Alamosa,” says Schlaufman. “Our team at Visit Alamosa is so lucky that we get to see and experience how unique and special the culture here is every day. It's moving to see how many more people also recognize how special Alamosa truly is.

“You can bet on the fact that Visit Alamosa will be making the most of this incredible opportunity! We are already such huge proponents of Alamosa's culture and heritage, so this win aligns beautifully with our marketing plans for 2024.”

“Growing up here…I know the younger mentality,” Mortensen says. “You can’t wait to get out and see what the rest of the world has, but you find yourself always wanting to come back here. This is the community where I grew up. This is where I met my wife who has come to love Alamosa. The sense of community you have – you just don’t get it anywhere else. 

"Unfortunately, sometimes it takes someone from outside of here to make us realize what we have, which really comes down to the diversity of people – those who have lived here for generations and those who come here from someplace else…all come to love Alamosa.  And there’s a lot here to love.”